Broomberg and Chanarin

Throughout my photographic practice, I am constantly looking for contextual inspiration and artists to inspire me. Broomberg and Chanarin are a collective that I often revisit as I find some similarities between them the way I work, as well as admiring their photography/art/collage crossover practice as a viewer. Broomberg and Chanarin have worked together since meeting as principal photographers for Colors magazine. Their practice is a distinct mixture of art, archival experiments and photojournalism, adopting traditional photographic methods, but bringing them right up to the contemporary by applying them in a different context. The way they work is not structured, and possesses a ‘free ranging thought process’ (Williams, 2008).  Their work sets out to end the idealistic view of society that documentary photography portrays. Each work addresses the world and confronts themes of histories, conflict and emotion in a very different way. Holy Bible (2013) is a violent conversation set among the pages of a Bible inspired by Brecht’s very own copy, whilst Scarti (2003) is an entirely melancholic journey into gated communities, with a sensitive approach to portrayal.  I link them directly to the photo book culture that I am currently embroiled in- I own their books, have seen their books and even when I visited the Deutsche Borse Prize exhibition last year (which they won) the work was indeed- a book. Set out in many glass cabinets of the books and some selected prints, the audience was invited to see a different type of photographic work in a gallery space. Whilst in conversation with Jeffrey Ladd, Chanarin and Broomberg spoke of the resurgence in the photo book:


As collaborators, you have worked both in books and exhibitions in a certain degree of success where many of your projects work well in both forms. You have also started your own small imprint Chopped Liver Press. I was wondering if you have a preference for the intimacy of books over the public exhibitions?

The definition of ‘book’ is undergoing a radical transformation. Far from becoming obsolete, the book — particularly the photo book — is experiencing a new lease of life. They speak to us. They turn their own pages. They update themselves. They have been de-materialized. Chopped Liver Press emerged as a response to this. We make handmade books in our studio. Very limited runs. When they are gone, that’s it. ForWar Primer 2, however, we produced two versions, a handmade edition of just 100 copies that was instantly sold out, and an e-book version that was freely available and continues to be downloaded. The code that powers these digital books is limited. But there’s great potential for intimacy.

The work they have produced contains a mixture of found imagery, online imagery and their own photographs. They collage and appropriate into different materials to achieve their desired outcome. Neither one of the pair has had formal photographic training and I think this is reflected in the free, unique style their work possesses. Having been ‘trained’ in formal photographic education, this particular point interested me quite a lot. Coming through an institution with a set of ideals to what photography should look like, my style has been influenced and shaped according to this. It is only until I felt confident enough with the skills and knowledge of photography that I felt it was ok to experiment with the style in which I presented photographic work. Presenting collage of existing imagery as a medium of practice as a photographer is a grey area and difficult to pin down both for myself as an artist, and the audience member. When selecting images to use within my work I make judgements solely based on aesthetic value, I can only see the 2D image, I have no facts to work with. Chanarin addressed this issue when discussing their work, Trust (2000).


Trust contains no narrative other than the one which we impose upon it

through looking. We can imagine what the subjects are seeing, making these conclusions through studies of the faces that we see. But we have no facts.


Reinterpreting work moves it through time, with each new encounter giving it more and more meaning for both artist and audience. These fragments are often marked randomly, offering up ‘a self contained universe all of their own’ telling stories of desire, frustration or ‘thwarted communication’. Broomberg and Chanarin comment on the ‘upsetting of the archive’ but insist it is resisting the traditional categorization and sequence to which it was destined. I see the work of this collective pair as a refreshing model for contemporary photography, and view it as a model of experimentation. Using these ideas and experiments myself has helped me realise ideas and produce strong work that I am confident in and proud of. Garden Book Club (2014) is an example of experimental practice I undertook with varying success- letting myself work freely with any material and medium I wished rather than within the constraints of photographic ideals, has meant I have enjoyed the process of making as well as being satisfied with the outcome.


Williams, V. (2008). No Statistics. Netherlands Photo Museum


Ladd, J. (2013) The Holy Bible, Appropriated: An illustrated scripture by Broomberg and Chanarin. TIME Lightbox





Practice as Research

Photographer as observer- Research Questions

I have many questions (below) that I would like to answer or even get chance to consider through conducting my practice, and some reoccurring themes seem to occur Here are a few things that I have added to an ever growing list with a file name of ‘ideas’


History of the found image in photography- its use, popularity and meaning

Found imagery and hidden memory- forever looking for sentiment that doesn’t exist

Invention into visual culture- trend of collage within fine art in a time of change

Photograph as an object

The family snapshot- an insight into a previous time and its trend in today’s photographic practice

Digital archives- are we going to lose a generation of images because of social media and digital technology?


Intervention into existing visual culture: Collage, found imagery and the digital era

–       Has the rise of digital technologies caused a recent trend in the popularity of collage and found imagery based work? As it has with film photography? Links with economics/ nostalgia

–       Will the rise of digital technologies eventually break this trend and found imagery will be only existing online such as google images

–       Review into the history of collage/found imagery/digital found imagery

–       An in depth analysis/review into the work of collage artists such as John Stezaker and Broomberg and Chanarin/Mishka Henner (exhibition?)

–       Will a future generation understand the sentiment of the found image having never been brought up around them? The link that we find fascinating?

–       Predictions for the future

Can the photo book replace the exhibition for photographers?

Most of these questions hang in the balance, as at present I am currently considering my practice (developing) as research at the moment: I put the developing in brackets because I am in the process of forming a practice as research, and I do not think it is there yet. I feel it is important to present the questions that I have considered throughout practice as it does in some way demonstrate a methodology to which I work, actively engaging with current contemporary discourse in photographic practiceI have highlighted the questions my practice is currently addressing, and through my independent project I hop

ideas: Using the photo book as a vehicle to deliver photographic based work, making photographs (or collections of) an object.

Underlying related questions

–       Can a photograph be considered an art object?

–       Will a future generation understand the sentiment of the found image if their main photographic archives are online?

–       Will the found image ever solely be just online?

–       Can the hierarchy of digital documentation by undone by effective use of the photobook?



As a photographic artist, my practice is constantly questioning these ideas and broad statements. I have made several photo books to deliver projects, as well as exhibitions. By doing this I have able to compare the two elements, and monitor how they are received by an audience. This is quite hard with photo books as the audience’s reaction is not always available once the photo book is taken away by the audience. Using found imagery constantly continues the sentiment of it by begging for interpretation or questions of origin to be asked. The theoretical practice that I am undertaking is helping exploring the use of the found image and digital archiving in the future, and research into artists such as John Stezaker and Adam Broomberg and Oliver Chanarin help me understand the contemporary use of collage, photography and found imagery.

There are lots of areas that I could go into detail to explore this topic further such things I have mentioned such as the methodology I work by, the situation of my practice in relation to this issue, or the knowledge that the practice creates. However, I am going to concentrate on the area of document/documentation as I feel this is applicable to many of the areas that I am exploring and reveals much more about my practice developing as research at this present time. It is also the area that I can relate to comfortably and confidently most at this time in my growing academic practice as research.


Photographer as collector


Documents of Practice

I keep constant scrapbooks of receipts, gallery leaflets, tickets, film canisters, any mementos, and photographs from trips/outings when making work and not making work. Essentially, my work develops from photographs that I take as documents, and from the things I pick up from day to day. Do they bear any relevance on my work as research? Yes. I keep these things to continue the cycle of visual culture that exists in the world, hoping that one day the things I collect can inform others in the same way that existing visual culture has influenced my practice. These documents also help to influence projects, inspire ideas, as well as settling my constant fear of forgetting. Childhood memories that I hold have many elements of collecting, whether it is flower pressing or scrapbooking tickets from trips. Continuing this practice is natural and possesses a huge element of nostalgia and physically holds memory, so I don’t have to, the same way in which I photograph/document the everyday in order to preserve moments as they are at that particular time.

Problem: There is a pragmatic requirement as a photographer to make work available and fight the definition of photography by its use. This can be difficult for any photographer or artist, as a hierarchy exists where any form of documentation of an existing work (whether it be print or exhibition) can be seen as inferior to the work itself.

‘archive documentation creates the circumstances by which the practice”itself” will be forgotten” Piccini and Rye (2002) 41

It is particularly difficult for me as an analogue photographer, as the work is carefully shot on specific film, developed in a way to produce a particular aesthetic, to be then digitally scanned (usually badly) and flattened into pixels on the internet grouped with the thousands of millions of images beside them, with no real sense of scale, authorship or context. What are the limits to these technologies? I am at risk of succumbing to temptation to consider all technological forms of documentation as transparent.


Mishka Henner’s work identifies with this head on through his practice using the digital documents of Google earth taken directly from streetview in the project No Man’s Land, portraying prostitutes around the world performing banal and everyday tasks. Grigoletto (2011) discussed Henner’s work, and spoke of it moving further and further away from taking an image, but rather as using the recording and archiving tool of photography to present new ideas about existing material and art.

Printing and distributing physical prints to the same audience the internet/digital forms reach would be time consuming, not cost effective, and most of all- impossible. There is also then the question that crops up in photography often, which is the actual work, the print hung in a gallery, or the documentation seen online? Exhibition catalogues are often seen as documentation of an event, not as the event itself. However, the work is only seen hung in a gallery by a very small percentage of an audience, thus posing the former question. Hughes (2005) looked at the need for non-gallery spaces for exhibiting contemporary art, stating that white cube spaces were not being used well to transport and distribute work to a wider audience, and exhibition catalogues and photo books can be seen as a solution to this.

I do not want quick and careless documentation to represent my practice; therefore it has to be a big part of the work and form the work itself.

So how do I embed this big part of my practice INTO my practice as research rather than it being an outside issue?

This issue has been an elephant in the room throughout my entire artistic career, however I am only just starting to tackle and solve it. Rather than documenting work solely through digital means, producing a photo book as the work means I can create a vehicle for the photographic imagery keeping full control of the documentation of the works during the process providing an art object with a particular aesthetic, documentation of the project as a whole that is easily distributed to a wider audience, and a collectable, archive material to store.

Here are three projects I have recently been involved in that focused directly on the work being documented and exhibited through the means of a book.

Relation to practice: Index- Café Royal Books 2014

Glasgow residency 2012

Garden Book Club 2014

Café Royal Books combined the two elements of book and exhibition by launching their book in an empty gallery space, keeping the focus entirely on the work, but bringing the audience together in a traditional gallery sense, invoking conversation around the work but allowing the audience to take the documentation/memory and work itself home with them. (Atkinson, 2014)

Most contemporary photographers use both exhibition and photo book (of some description, whether it be catalogue, zine, magazine or artist book) to disseminate their work and ideas. At some point in the making of a project, they will ask the question of book or wall, when considering the execution of it overall. In a field where there are countless outputs for work, the final outcome will affect the making of the work to some degree, with photographers gearing their style and project towards huge mural style prints, or using lo-fi technologies with the intention of photocopying their prints into a limited run zine, Daido Moriyama style (Tate, 2012). By deciding these factors, practitioners are also affecting what type of work it will be, whether it will be geared towards a high end commercial gallery or unlimited fertility through production of a book.

The collage work I am producing at the moment begs the question of display. Printed too big, the work becomes advertising. Printed too small, the technical aspects of the pieces are sometimes lost. I have always enjoyed the transferability of a book: between people, between places and making people talk. Presenting my photographic practice as exhibition has always posed issues, as I feel the actual outcome never really meets the expectation of desired outcome in my mind, whether it is due to financial or space restrictions, or time restraints imposed by deadlines. As aforementioned, photos can often be lost as singular images (although sometimes their effect is more powerful alone) and by presenting my current practice as a photo book; it becomes a much more strong and constructed project as a whole. In previous blog posts I have discussed my work being more concerned with the process than the outcome, and by producing a photo book I have managed to encompass both elements by being entirely in control throughout, and being satisfied with the outcome at last. In my eyes, documentation of photographic practice can be the work itself. I store my work is series’ of prints anyway, and the book is just a creative extension of this. By doing this you are exploring the photograph as document but redefining the document’s use by recontextualising it into the work itself. (Soutter, 2013). For example,Dusseldorf’s own Bernd and Hilla Becher’s bland seemingly record photographs were then recontextualised, encouraging viewers to project their own subjective meanings.

Reflecting on documentation and the photo book, reflection as documentation

It exists beside documentation, not instead of. There is still a need for digital presence through scanning etc. Plus the photo book is made in this way. Using various models of reflection for my teaching practice such as Gibbs’, Schon, Brookfield and Rolfe, I have been reflecting on my practice in different ways to examine the impact it would have on any future decisions I made. In all honesty, none of them really stuck.

I reflect on my photographic work through my WordPress site and it seems to work well to cast my mind back to a certain point in my practice, as well as inviting peer and outside feedback and evaluation from others. Keeping a website updated regularly is a new thing for my practice, and one that has helped keep my ideas structured and at the same time is forming an important digital presence and archive.

Relation to the institution

A firm believer in education as power, and even more so knowledge as power, I have strong research interests and belief that increasing the amount of knowledge around my specialist area will impact on the field as a whole. This wouldn’t have happened without my educational path into doing so, teaching me the ways and means of research and its importance. However, this being said, the research with a big r is a daunting prospect and a term that I do not feel my practice is nearly enough developed yet to be applied to. During my MA I have become more confident in confirming my practice and research interests, and hopefully this will, in the future, generate some brand new knowledge to the field of photography research. I have summarized the future for me through a chronological order and based around the reflection that I have undertaken. Slide 22 Independent project- slide 23 continuing my photographic practice whilst working in slide 24 arts education, slide 25 expanding my own knowledge, slide 26 perhaps studying towards a PhD, and then finally, slide 27 contributing original research to the photographic field and the institution.

Atkinson, C. (2014) Index Cafe Royal Books: Preston

Badger, G., Parr., M. (2004). The Photobook: A History volume I. London: Phaidon Press.

Borgdorff, H. (2011). The production of knowledge in artistic research. The Routledge Companion to Research in the Arts. Oxon: Routledge.

Brookfield, Stephan (1998). “Critically Reflective Practice”. Journal of Continuing Education in the Health Profession 18 (4): 197–205.

Daichendt, J. (2012) ‘Artists and Scholarship.’ In Artist Scholar. Reflections on writing and research. Intellect: Bristol. PP xiii-xxiii

Derrida, J. cited in Nelson, R. (2009). ‘Practice-as Research Knowledge and their place in the academy.’ In Allegue, Jones, Kershaw and Piccini Eds Practice as research in performance and screen. Palgrave: Basingstoke. Pp.112-30

Gibbs, G. (1988) Learning by doing: A guide to teaching and learning methods, Oxford Centre for Staff and Learning Development, Oxford Polytechnic. London: Further Education Unit.

Gossage, J. (2002). As cited in Parr, M., Badger, G., (2004) The Photobook: A History volume I. London: Phaidon Press.

Grigoletto, L. 2012, “WORK THROUGH THE LENS”, Afterimage, vol. 40, no. 3, pp. 2.

Hughes, L. 2005, “Do we need new spaces for exhibiting contemporary art? A critique of curatorial practice in relation to the viewer’s engagement with contemporary art”, Journal of Visual Art Practice, vol. 4, no. 1, pp. 29-38.

Piccini, A. (2002). ‘An historiographic perspective on Practice as Research’. PARIP: University of Bristol.

Prins, R. (1969) In conversation with Cas Oorthuys, quoted in Bloom, M.,

Suermondt, R., (2002) Photography Between the Covers: The Dutch Documentary Photo Book After 1945. Fragment Uitgeverij: Amsterdam

Rolfe, G., Freshwater, D., Jasper, M. (2001) (eds.) Critical Reflection for Nursing and the Helping Professions. Basingstoke, U.K: Palgrave. ISBN 0-333-77795-6. pp. 26 et seq., p. 35

Schön, D. (1983) The Reflective Practitioner, How Professionals Think In Action, Basic Books

Soutter, L. (2013) Why Art Photography? Routledge: London

Tate Gallery (2012) Daido Moriyama Printing Show. [online] accessed 6th May 2014


Book or Wall? Exhibiting Photography and Collage

Dutch photography critic Ralph Prins (1969) describes the photo book as

‘An autonomous art form, comparable with a piece of sculpture, a play or a film.’

The photo book has been a fundamental means of expression and dissemination since some of the earliest practitioners pasted their images into books where sketches would have once sat. 19th century photography’s place was the library or the archive, as it was seen as a tool for making and recording rather than an art form in its own right. In this archive would sit many prints and contact sheets, as well as photo books. When photography was seemingly accepted into the mainstream art world, these photo books were then pulled apart and separated into gallery worthy prints. Photo books have the potential to be much more far-reaching than exhibitions, and can continue long after an exhibition has closed.

I am interested in exploring the value that a photo book holds as an object, as an art piece, or how it can form a vehicle for exhibition or transporting work to a more general audience. An avid collector and admirer of the photo (and artist) books, I am very much inclined to agree with Prins’ grand statement placing the photo book’s value up there with much loved and well established art forms. When presented on their own, photographs may not work as the creator intended. Many photographers shoot work imagined as a series, rather than a singular image. Photographs may lose character as things alone, but can become the words, sentences or paragraphs forming this ‘dramatic event’ called a book, where their message can be translated in a strong and bold manner (Badger, 2004).

 From a pragmatic viewpoint, photo books need a number of elements in order to make them work as an object in their own right, or indeed give succinct reason to why they are presented in such a way. The work inside the book should be able to work as a ‘concise world’ (Gossage, 2002) as well as be complimented by intricate and detailed design decisions to encourage an ongoing interest. After beginning my research into this area, I began to think about what it was about photo books that I loved and why I was insistent on presenting both my photography and collage work (Ducks Nanny, Paradise, Garden Book Club) in such a way, right from the making stages.

Photography viewed in galleries excites me, but at the same time is a little daunting. It seems almost too serious to have your work framed and placed in an empty white space. When visiting shows, I more often than not get annoyed with my own reflection in the frame glass whilst attempting to press my nose up to seek out detail. Photo books do not fill me with this annoyance or feeling of daunt. More often than not the extra detail (or no detail, in some cases) presents me with new information about the ideas of the photographer and how they really want to show off their work. Colour choices, images, text all play an extra part in the photos that are offered up in a photo book. Photography is a mass medium, and one that is exploited each and every day. Photo books manage to carry this mass medium at the same time as embracing both technical and aesthetical aspects of the character. They are tactile objects designed for handling, for owning, for putting on your shelf and reading for reference whenever you see fit. This separates exhibition and publication for me- as nice as seeing shows is, I always want to take them home and remember them forever. Ask me about a show I didn’t manage to get the catalogue for… I won’t be able to tell you much about it. You are encouraged to handle photo books (how else would you read them?) something highly frowned upon in the gallery setting, where barriers or glass often set you apart from the work.

Through my exploration of the history of the photo book as an object, I found that artists in the 20th century embraced cheaply made, easily distributed photo books as a way to free themselves from the ‘deadening of museum culture’, a trend that has continued on and has become an option for replacement of the standard photography show. Photo books can be seen to bridge the gap between the aesthetic and the contextual, linking art directly with the mass medium.

Most contemporary photographers use both exhibition and photo book (of some description, whether it be catalogue, zine, magazine or artist book) to disseminate their work and ideas. At some point in the making of a project, they will ask the question of book or wall, when considering the execution of it overall. In a field where there are countless outputs for work, the final outcome will affect the making of the work to some degree, with photographers gearing their style and project towards huge mural style prints, or using lo-fi technologies with the intention of photocopying their prints into a limited run zine, Daido Moriyama style (Tate, 2012). By deciding these factors, practitioners are also affecting what type of work it will be, whether it will be geared towards a high end commercial gallery or unlimited fertility through production of a book.

The collage work I am producing at the moment begs the question of display. Printed too big, the work becomes advertising. Printed too small, the technical aspects of the pieces are sometimes lost. I have always enjoyed the transferability of a book: between people, between places and making people talk. Presenting my photographic practice as exhibition has always posed issues, as I feel the actual outcome never really meets the expectation of desired outcome in my mind, whether it is due to financial or space restrictions, or time restraints imposed by deadlines. As aforementioned, photos can often be lost as singular images (although sometimes their effect is more powerful alone) and by presenting my current practice as a photo book; it becomes a much more strong and constructed project as a whole. In previous blog posts I have discussed my work being more concerned with the process than the outcome, and by producing a photo book I have managed to encompass both elements by being entirely in control throughout, and being satisfied with the outcome at last.

Badger, G., Parr., M. (2004). The Photobook: A History volume I. London: Phaidon Press.

Gossage, J. (2002). As cited in Parr, M., Badger, G., (2004) The Photobook: A History volume I. London: Phaidon Press.

Prins, R. (1969) In conversation with Cas Oorthuys, quoted in Bloom, M., Suermondt, R., (2002) Photography Between the Covers: The Dutch Documentary Photo Book After 1945. Fragment Uitgeverij: Amsterdam

Tate Gallery (2012) Daido Moriyama Printing Show. [online] accessed 6th May

Only in England/The day I met Martin Parr

Continuing with the theme of my last post, this entry focuses primarily on a photographer who has provided me with inspiration and research fodder for my entire artistic journey- a grand old total of 10 years now (turned 26 on Sunday, yack). Martin Parr was one of the first photographers whose images I cut and pasted into my AS Level photography workbook, and one that was to quickly become a permanent feature in every workbook from then on. I have been lucky to see a lot of his work in various different galleries around the globe and own many of his brilliant publications, making me pretty familiar with his documentary work. One thing I didn’t ever think I would do was meet the man himself. I noticed on the National Media Museum’s website that he and his wife Susie were due to do a talk about the ‘Only in England’ exhibition opening there in early April. Jumping to the chance of hearing a hero speak about his working process, I booked the tickets and swiftly forgot about the whole thing.

Fast forward a few months, and the day arrived. Having anxiety disorder means that pretty much any emotion fuelled experience whether it is happy, sad or exciting can be a whirlwind of different feelings all at once. Almost like a Sunday dinner all smooshed together into one big gravy mess. (I hate gravy). This day was definitely a gravy smooshed day. Travelling to Bradford from York seemed to take a lifetime, collecting the tickets even longer as it seemed like the girl at the desk was handwriting each one with a feather quill, and making my way into the Cubby Broccoli Cinema (brilliant name, oui?) was almost like I was crawling. Backwards. With a blindfold on. You get the picture.

It was well worth the excitement though when both Martin and Susie entered the cinema and took their seats at the front. Two rows back, I had a brilliant view and found myself not blinking for quite a while whilst I took the whole thing in. Martin Parr had a comforting face, and Susie looked exactly how I hope to look at her age- graceful grey, kooky, with a good splash of lipstick all rolled into one. They talked at length with Greg Hobson (curator of Only in England) about Parr’s work with the Non-Conformists of Hebden Bridge and the newly selected and curated archive from Tony Ray-Jones. Parr spoke of Ray-Jones’ American photography style, that he “captured the bits in between the subjects and made them interesting”- a style that inspired Parr during his time at Manchester Polytechnic. The pair never met, much to Parr’s regret, however they did photograph the same events, such as Epsom’s Derby Day. Hearing both Martin and Susie speak so highly of the North which I call home just made me love them both even more, I found myself smiling and nodding whilst they were talking. They love “the sense of community in the North”, something I heard the audience quietly agree with muffled responses. Parr spoke of his work starting out as a celebration of society, merging into a critique of society when moving to colour photography. His current projects are now revisiting this celebration, after his career move to “sophisticated community photographer.”


I hung onto his every word- furiously scribbling quotes and filling a notebook in the process. The audience had chance to ask questions- a portion of artist talks that always makes me cringe. Not in fear of embarrassing myself, but in the fear that other people will embarrass themselves. I had my questions but I did not want to share them, I didn’t want them to be struck down in negativity, so I held back. In line with my pre-cringing, the audience didn’t hold back with their un-thought out questioning. Many questions were based around Instagram or social media. Fine, but listen to the bloody answers. Parr is a gifted and clear speaker, and managed to wrap a large topic up in a couple of answers. Yet people kept asking the same things. You have the chance of a lifetime here, I thought to myself. Yet they carried on. I gritted my teeth in cringing pain whilst he shuffled from one mirrored answer to the next. The question and answer session was luckily quite short.


Next on the anxiety treadmill, was the chance to meet Martin and Susie Parr. My hands and legs were shaking in anticipation. Good questions (nothing about social media) were whirring around in my head whilst I planned my demeanor. I hope you can picture me as a cool, calm collected cucumber waiting in line, book in hand. Now erase that image, and imagine a sweaty, hyper aware girl dressed in green polka dots swaying awkwardly from side to side. That’s me. A guy in the line behind me starting talking to me about photo books, it was a welcome distraction. I tried to concentrate on what he was saying to me, but all I could concentrate on was the queue rapidly diminishing. It was my turn. Oh god. What were my questions? I had both the Parrs staring back at me waiting for me to snap into action. Here is what I managed “It is a huge privilege….I’m shaking…”


“Do you want your book signing?”


Awkward pause… “To who?”


It went on a little like this for a few minutes. I managed to say privilege around 5 times, get my book signed and get a comforting “aww bless you” from Susie. Cool cucumber I was not. I hadn’t realised how much I admired Martin Parr until that moment, and my anxiety took over and told me otherwise. After composing myself and removing a few layers of clothing, I enjoyed the exhibition at the NMM viewing each image with a renewed admiration for both Parr and Tony Ray-Jones. I will write another blog post focusing on the work in the exhibition, plus the Philip-Lorca DiCorcia exhibition at the Hepworth I saw the same afternoon. It was a day I will remember for the rest of my life, the day I turned to jelly, met a hero, and never got to find out what Martin Parr’s favourite photo book was. At least I know what he thinks about Instagram…


Hannah Hoch- Whitechapel Gallery, London

Hannah Hoch has always been a reoccurring and inspiring figure in my artistic research. First discovered aged 15, she has always been this shorthaired, eccentric Dadaist that no one seemed to know a whole lot about. Fast-forward 10 years, and the story is still the same. Here I was, holding my breath in excitement about being able to catch her first UK exhibition at the Whitechapel a day before it closed, and 40 years after her death. I had visions of what the work would look like in the huge space, the same huge space I had last seen engulfed in Sarah Lucas’ concrete phallic objects and ceiling height prints. How would they display? Actually, how big are they? The decade of unanswered questions were now playing round in my head. The Whitechapel Gallery visits I had made in the past had never involved a queue- or an admission fee for that matter. The idea of paying for the exhibition just excited me more, it must be really good. The curators must have searched high and wide for some rarities to display!

Post-queue, my excitement started to wane slightly. The amount of people in the gallery was bordering on making the work un-seeable. Telling myself not to lose faith, I began the ritual of moving around in the socially acceptable gallery snake that naturally forms, leaning forward respectfully and moving around at a snails pace. Unusually, I found myself skipping things. I loved the work I was seeing, but having it set out in this painful chronological order was doing it no justice. How else could they display it, I thought to myself, instead of concentrating on the work.

More interestingly, perhaps? But how?

The collages Hoch made were full of wonder and excitement, yet these huge spaces made me think of the ceramic section of a museum- the bit I avoid at all costs. The exhibition was advertised as showing ‘over 100 works’ which was by all means true, however the sheer amount of petite framed works amongst glass cabinets full of related material made it tedious rather than a rich collection. On the Nile ll (1940s) was the first piece to really make me stop. The edges of the assembled pieces were visible; a small fingerprint on a glossier style paper was easily identifiable. The colours were rich and vivid. All things a collage artist would get excited about. The early works displayed were varied, and many contained human features. A mixture of collage, watercolours and drawings demonstrated experimental techniques and a comfort to eventually be found with collage. The early work was busy, and the key relationships in Hoch’s life with Hausmann and Schwitters were an obvious influence. Each piece entirely different, but all with the same emerging energy of an artist who had found their place and was running with it. Moving around with the endless snake took me upstairs to join a queue for something I wasn’t sure of, as I couldn’t see past anyone. Time then told that there were a few copies of Album (1930s) laid out for visitors to browse through. Album is a collection of Hoch’s collage materials containing newspaper, advertising and magazine cuttings carefully inserted into a huge scrapbook. There seems to be a theme to each section, although some cuttings do find their way in randomly. Browsing through this was an insight into the time in which Hoch lived. A lot of cuttings outlining the war hovering over her native Germany reminded the viewer of Hoch’s solitary years living on the outskirts of Berlin with only chickens for company. Album is a book to leaf through leisurely at your own pace, not at a pace of the snake now tutting and reading over your shoulder. Reluctantly, I moved on. Moving through the war years was rather depressing. Hoch’s busy, exciting work all of a sudden became melancholy and void of people. The war is hugely apparent when viewing her work chronologically, with all aspects taking a definite turn. Juxtaposed landscapes filled with dark colours and densely populated areas, huge confusing works that had both text and images aligned seemingly randomly over her paper. They seemed angry and rushed almost, like the label of ‘degenerate artist’ from the Nazis had taken its toll on her artistic output.

The remaining third of the exhibition outlined her work after the war had ended. Here, pieces of Hoch’s collage puzzles were more and more abstract with elements such as body parts and colours not playing their usual role, being rotated and being merged into a wider display. No longer surrealist, Hoch had categorised the work as ‘fantastic art’ although they weaved more into a reexamination of the abstract. Barren landscapes with built up suns and fantasy worlds were in front of me. A part of Hoch’s work I was not familiar with one bit. It felt like the calm after the storm, the winding down. There were less people in this part of the Whitechapel, giving me access to zigzag across and really think about what I was seeing. The Everyday was more and more apparent in Hoch’s later work (1950s-1960s), with the material she was using coming from mainstream advertising for a mass audience.

I had turned my back slightly to the last piece in the show; the biggest piece yet, a self-portrait containing photographs and scraps from her entire existence. Stepping backwards, I realised I was now out of the exit doors and on my way down the stairs. Still, a few weeks on from visiting I cannot determine whether I enjoyed the exhibition or not. On one hand, it was hugely underwhelming, but I don’t feel that was due to the work itself, or the gallery. The idea that this was Hoch’s first UK exhibition ran around in my head. Maybe the work wasn’t meant to be viewed in this way. It comes from cut outs from books; people have forged their knowledge on her from books until now. People were queuing to read Album and the exhibition catalogue is now selling on Amazon for £250- the gallery space may just not be the vehicle needed to transport Hoch’s work. Building up a decade of fantasy and mystery around an artist in your mind is probably not the most open-minded way to approach such a rich and well positioned exhibition, still, I have gone away with this mystery in tact and I still don’t really know much about Hannah Hoch- the way I like to think she intended it to be.

Ways of Remembering

Berger (1978) begins his essay Ways of Remembering by examining what was before photography. He concludes his examination with the answer of the faculty of memory. I struggle to remember a time where the world I live in wasn’t recorded through a camera. I expressed myself through the designated arts curriculum at school, but often made photographs at home without really thinking too much about it. This was growing up in the 1990’s where photography was most definitely the norm and very much embedded within the family home. He talks about a photograph as a trace of a memory, it only holding whatever the lens captures at that very second, a set of appearances. There is no background to the image, as with memory. Memory fails to examine the events around a particular event, just a set of appearances, just like the camera (you probably never imagine what is set up behind the photographer, or slightly left of the frame, do you?) Berger goes on by looking at the usability of photography and why it is so popular. He states:

The photograph offers a set of appearances prised away from their context and therefore their meaning, because meaning is always a question of process- meaning lies in narrative, meaning is born out of development and process.

This particular thought made me consider my collage works. I often find it difficult to express any type of meaning or reasoning to why they were made. Why did I choose that particular book, to cut out that image of that particular houseplant and pair it with a black and white image of a woman with a considerable amount of pubic hair? I have no hidden narrative in creating this collage, no moral to convey to an audience, so perhaps the lack of meaning is born out of the process itself. I am removing it by overworking it. Collage is prising photographs even further away from their original context. I am taking photographs of which I have no idea on their original existence, I know nothing about the woman with the pubic hair, and I know nothing about the house in which the houseplant is kept. These images are then cut, thus removing any remaining meaning and context they were holding onto, and pasted into a mixture of other appearances, finishing with a transparent image with no attached meaning.  This transparency leads to a communication with my audience. I don’t need a meaning or a message to communicate with an audience, just the practice itself. The ‘violence’ of process as Berger puts it, destroys meaning. In relation to this point, I looked at the featured image of this post in more detail. A plant of some description, placed on a modern surface. To me, that plant holds resonance, a reminder of a trip somewhere, a fun day where that plant stopped me in my tracks in order to record its very being. An exact recording of an event, yet it holds no relevance to anyone except me, or perhaps anyone who shared my fondness it for it whilst visiting the National Media Museum. A viewer can then attach their own meaning to it, as mine is completely removed in the eyes of a new audience. The violence continues, in the public photograph severed from life when it was taken. By discovering this, I have relaxed the boundaries I had imposed on myself for making work in a particular way, and in turn been a lot happier and a lot more confident in the results.

Berger metaphorically compares the systematic use of photography with the all-seeing eye, which saw to judge. The recording of all events judges nothing, yet they still exist to do so. This thought made me question why I photograph the everyday in such a banal and unorganised fashion. Do I record unconscious thoughts around me in order to forget? To take in every event and discard the ones I don’t wish to store photographically and mentally? I link this idea back to the notion that we are no longer living in the now, but actually more obsessed with living in the past or future. Mass consumption of imagery has provided us with a basis where we shoot now, and look later. A time starved generation that are conditioned to believe they cannot live in the now.

Photographs can have context created for them, and in turn achieve their purpose. Berger states that the better than photograph, the fuller the context that can be created. The photographs I use were not taken by me; does this mean they are void of context? I believe it may be the case in the first instance, as the imagery is in fact not my own. In choosing that particular image however, brings it into a new context, a new meaning by curating this tiny little exhibition of existing visual culture every time the glue dries on a page.

Berger, J. (1978). as cited in  Evans, J. (1997) The camerawork essays, context and meaning in photography. New York University Press: New York.

Camera Work

In the introduction to The Camerawork Essays (1997), an article from the magazine written by Susan Sontag (1974) is quoted:


A capitalist society requires a culture based on images, it needs to furnish vast amounts of entertainment in order to stimulate buying and anaesthetise the injuries of class, race and sex… The camera’s twin capacities, to subjectivise reality and objectify it, ideally serves these needs and strengthens them. Cameras define reality in two ways essential to the workings of an advanced industrial society; as a spectacle (for masses) and as an object of surveillance (for rulers). The production of images also furnishes a ruling ideology. Social change is replaced by a change in images. The freedom to consume a plurality of images and goods is equated with freedom itself.


After reading this quote, I began to try and use it as a lens through which to examine my own practice. In particular I wanted to ask the question: whether or not I consider my photographic practice to be defining reality as a spectacle or as a tool for surveillance? At present, my photographic practice is mainly collage. This is due to the fact I was becoming dissatisfied with the photographic results of a good (good in my head anyway) idea and months of planning. I was unable to communicate effectively with the results. I have however, carried on shooting images whenever I see fit to do so.  One of the main reasons of my dissatisfaction is the constant pressure for an image to look a particular way, or fit into an ideal photographic trend at that time; and being familiar with specialist publications and exhibitions, I began the inevitable comparisons to canonical photographers. Through collage, the photographs I use had already been taken and published (spectacle-for the masses) yet I am making choices to reshape their original use to convey them in a new way, in a new era. In so doing I recontextualise the image, giving it new meaning. Is this considered as surveillance of past era through the reexamination of existing culture, or still for the masses, in this case, the audience that will view my practice.? I am still inclined to go with the latter, as I am striving to produce new things for an audience, not with the intention to analyse their original context or purpose.


The freedom Sontag mentions in the quote is a capitalist freedom- a freedom to consume images and goods. I question whether this is a healthy freedom, or whether my idea of freedom fits into this particular ideology Sontag sets out? This article was written in 1974- a time where imagery was restricted to print and display. The freedom of consuming images takes a very different stance when thinking of it in the now, a time where the Internet produces hundreds of thousands of images every day. Has this freedom Sontag talked of become greed? Or is the meaning of the image completely lost through this mass consumption? It restricts me more artistically than providing a photographic freedom to share and connect. The sheer amount of photographs available in today’s society is almost unbearable to think about, with artists and photographers having to shout louder than ever before in order to get work noticed amongst the sea of amateurs and budding professionals. It has forced me to back out of the entire process. This pollution of imagery has been brought about for a number of reasons. Sharing images has never had so many platforms- most social media sites have the ability to upload photographs, as so specialist sites such as Flickr and Instagram. There is an abundance of image making technologies available, spreading far and wide, with a huge majority of people owning a smartphone containing a high resolution digital camera, giving them the capability to shoot and upload anywhere and at any time.  What effect does this have on the artist or photographer trying to penetrate such a crowded image bubble? It is a particular issue for me, as I feel particularly alienated by the whole thing. It has meant a clear rise in the popularity of the printed photo book, with artists and photographers rebelling against the pollution of images by organizing book launches with limited copies available to collectors and likeminded people. Photo ‘zines have also seen a rise in popularity, giving a cheaper and quicker alternative for artists to display their work in a more lasting and effective manner. The reasons for my backing out are simple- I need to separate my practice from the abundance of imagery that is available, in order to give it chance to communicate with an audience in the intended way. If my work is uploaded and left, I have no control over reproduction, quality or layout if the work was to be then used elsewhere. I am a huge believer in experiencing the now, rather than digitally recording for later. I interpret this as visiting a space with work on offer to view, to converse about, rather than to fall into a sea of flat imagery that will quickly be forgotten. Although this all sounds quite negative, overall I think it is a good thing for the artist. It makes me work harder to go around the norm of sharing online, and makes me think a lot more about how my work can be presented or published in an alternative way.


Shooting with analogue techniques, I am less than hasty to start plastering my photographs all over the Internet, due to the original intention of the technique used. I have purposely chosen to use a film based technology, so creating digital images from my work is nearly always a documentation tool rather than overall creation of the document itself. However, when creating collages, I still have the compulsion to share them instantly. I cannot work out why this is just yet either. It may be the fact that the majority of imagery shared on websites is generally not collage- therefore I do not face such a drowning effect as I do with my photographs. In John Berger’s (1978) Ways of Remembering examines the private and the public photograph. The private being a photograph that continues to hold its context in the same way it was taken, and the public photograph being one that is disassociated completely with the time in which it was captured.  Sharing my photographs freely changes their usage dramatically. I have no control over how people view them- making their context invalid at time of viewing. Swirling the Internet, images become hugely isolated from not only their original concept, but often the photographer who held that concept.


Evans (1997) goes on to talk about the cultural strain that photography quickly came to experience, for having access to making beautiful photographs of the everyday simply wasn’t enough. It quickly was becoming embedded within the everyday, and now it is difficult to comprehend a time when a person with a camera wasn’t the norm. The portrait became a way we established ourselves as people, and ‘posing’ to capture your best traits was completely routine. I likened this to the now, in the way of the ‘selfie’. A Facebook generation is growing up with a set of beliefs that encompass taking instant digital bizarre angled photographs of themselves to present their personalities on the Internet. It is a far call from the beautiful organised portraits that would be printed and hold pride of place in the home. Evans talks about the set of conditions that different categories of photographers impose on themselves, whether you class yourself as an amateur, a fine art photographer, or a photojournalist. These labels dictate the work the photographer produces, and somewhat restricts their artistic output. Here, I penciled in the margin- what label and what conditions do I live by as a photographer? I hoped I didn’t do these things, but I quickly realised I did and was guilty of stereotyping and judging other categories. Having had a ‘fine art photography’ education, I class myself to be included in this category. What conditions does this mean I live by though; surely a fine art photographer is unrestricted in their work? For me, it means I search for context within my photographs, construct them with thought and try and produce meaningful work in series. I take inspiration from existing artists and photographers and try and avoid editing my images to keep them as ‘honest’ as possible. By exploring this, I have rapidly realised how restrictive this is to my work and probably how it has come to a huge stand still, as I am living to unreasonable boundaries limiting my creative process, and therefore limiting me as photographer.


Berger, J. (1978). as cited in  Evans, J. (1997) The camerawork essays, context and meaning in photography. New York University Press: New York.

Evans, J. (1997) The camerawork essays, context and meaning in photography. New York University Press: New York.

Sontag, S. (1974) as cited in  Evans, J. (1997) The camerawork essays, context and meaning in photography. New York University Press: New York.


RIP Pat Butcher, Forever in our hearts.

I, in turn do not blame Mel Gibson and his films for all the hurt and despair in the world, although I do hold Patricia Louise Evans (nèe Harris; previously Beale, Wicks and Butcher) somewhat responsible for the co-existence that resides outside of reality. The cross over; in that we find ourselves so immersed with fantasy lives other than our own, possesses some people to purchase and send condolences cards to the BBC for a character that never actually existed, let alone died. Sending these gifts to the BBC rather than the fictional address in Walford where Pat resided, shows a definite understanding that the character isn’t in fact in real, causing a strange in-between limbo land where neither reality or fiction is present.

Is this in fact our gateway to dealing with reality? In 1995, over 24 million viewers watched Pat Butcher run over a teenage girl. With no consequences. No voyeurism charges, no inappropriate viewing of a tragic accident. Fantasy reality is our window to seeing these things happen and being able to go to bed knowing you will sleep soundly. As Richard Flood states in the opening essay of Unmonumental,

“Reality is a collage composed of whatever grabs our attention and the competition is limitless”

Which can directly relate to the issues surrounding dealing with us in the now. Watching other people’s lives play out in exaggerated misery and frequent tragedy not only allows audiences to disengage with themselves, their families and their immediate lives, but allows their direct stare to be cast into both the past and future, avoiding the present.

“Photographs…an imperfect means by which we fill the voids of memory in modern culture, to preserve the remnants of a world that has disappeared” (Lippard, 1997, pp 56)

Living in such a digitally sound age, with the opportunity to share any thought, image or memory to the eager key tapping world has taken away the enjoyment of the current and replaced it with an over consuming fear of not being to recall the moment in the future. Ironically, these digitally posted reminders exist solely on an network of non-existent data which in fact, could disappear at any given time- making the events we recorded for the future probably less concrete than before. We no longer enjoy an art gallery, we scout for the ‘no photography’ sign before loading up our iPhones with captures of the artworks, to relay later. A bad substitute at best. The photographic work of Hattie Coltrane makes is hugely guilty of this, capturing the memories and emotions she is so desperate to cling onto. Instead of immersing herself in the time, thoughts and feelings, she casts it to one side for future referral- causing in turn, a huge catch 22.

Working within everyday themes and in particular with banality and objects, the work is often a little too abstract to recall the initial intentions. Baudrillard states:

“Not to say all objects are mechanically substituted for an absent relation, to fill a void no; they describe the void” (Baudrillard, cited in Keller, 1994, pp 22).

This is particularly interesting when thinking of the photograph as a tool for recalling memory or emotion. As soon as the emotional intensity of a situation has been left, or forgotten, it cannot be recalled. A photograph will never take you back there, however it will act as a constant reminder that it wasn’t dealt with properly in the first place or at the right time. Continually boomeranging through time with perpetual strings tugging onto the past and future causes an awful dismay in Coltrane’s earlier works.

So how can this limbo between reality/non-reality, presence/memory, past/future, and photographer/photography be dealt with in a successful way? Coltrane seems have begun investigating this, by intervening in an existing visual culture. Many traditional photography users, when asked by nosy intruders “why do you still cling on to analogue when digital is easier/quicker/better etc?” reply with “because I enjoy the process”. That isn’t in fact a loaded answer, but the truth from somebody who doesn’t enjoy the instant but enjoys the reflection. Shooting a frame onto film that cannot be discarded until way after development helps to assess the choices that have influenced the frame in the first place. An inspiration, an emotion will be captured onto perhaps, an abstract representation of that particular moment and can be reflected on days, maybe weeks or even months after shooting. The analogue camera then becomes the driving force on recording the world, without placing a brick wall in between enjoying the time in the present and also looking at it again in the future. There is no digital screen to ponder over whilst missing the next inspirational scene, no slight camera error that becomes the powerful force towards the delete button. Instantaneous reactions such as this, disallows the artist to go back and change their mind in a new light, leaving such mistakes a distant memory. How ironic, when chronic photographers are attempting to record every single minute of each living day for recollection in the future.

The camera is a tool, and can be manipulated in any way both during and after processes. But what happens when the scenes become less awe inducing, less commemorative? The camera then becomes less used and more of a hindrance, a constant reminder of the growing negativity surrounding our society today.

Existing imagery can be a catalyst for creativity in photographers. They know good photographs, and if their imagination cannot be expressed entirely in their own photographic practice, perhaps it can be sought out in that of others. This idea of intervening in a visual culture that already exists is a way of sitting firmly in the limbo, but making your own comfortable unique seat in the process. Becoming the forward slash in an established image heavy world can then produce a new, refreshing way to highlight the post postmodern culture we deal with today. Adapting imagery taken from sources published over 30 years ago, can cut the photographic middle man from the equation, who ever tries to seek out the perfect photograph to speak for them, by already presenting a platform of political/philosophical representation, ready for manipulation for us in the now, without letting it pass us by. The world still turns; everything is fine. It is a quick way of working, a way of photographical vomit that splurges our creative desires without turning our backs on today.

“Simultaneously tantalizing and unsatisfying…struck by their [photographs] unbridgeable distance, consistent failure to represent what I really want to see and know about the past- it seems if all the ‘wrong pictures’ were taken” (Lippard, 1997, pp 57)

The selection of imagery that already has had its decisions made for it can begin to throw up another set of theories and intrigue. Surely, there must be some subconscious way how the imagery is selected, whether it is content, colour or statement. Gender, in particular women, is a theme that rears itself in this work and in quite a suggestive manner. Sexuality, the woman as an object and domestic roles are all seemingly apparent in the finished manipulation, but was that the intent in the first place? Barthes states:

“..Pulls subjects apart until you forget about what you were describing in the first place” (Barthes, 2009, pp 131)

The difference in initial selection and the finished piece are reminiscent of that mentioned earlier. Shooting a photograph digitally, takes away the time of musing, control and change by thrusting it straight into the operator’s hands and potential threat. Forgetting why you originally selected an image to intervene in visual culture with isn’t a problem, but the themes that rise can link back to the issue with dealing with reality and yourself in the now.

Hiding in limbo can thus, maybe be just as bad.

Studio vs Lab

Studio vs Lab


During a recent examination of Henk Borgdoff’s ‘The Production of Knowledge in Artistic Research’ I discovered some interesting points that related to my practice as research, and some I really couldn’t get my head around. I found the Borgdoff text to revisit points repetitively and unnecessarily, but could relate to a point made about working inside out. He states (p.47)

Is the researcher trying to reveal something of the secrets of the creative process, or artistic practice, or is the methodological deployment of the artistic creative process best suited because it takes an unmediated route to investigate from inside what is at work in art?

It will conclude, however, by saying that artistic research seeks not so much to make explicit the knowledge that art is said to produce, but rather to provide a specific articulation of the pre-reflective, non-conceptual content of art. It thereby invites ‘unfinished thinking.’ Hence, it is not the formal knowledge that is the subject matter of artistic research, but thinking in, through and with art.

I related this directly back to my artist statement, in particular the point that discusses product and process of photographic practice.

I search fruitlessly for extra meaning when I study these traces from a past time. Bringing these interpretations together in collages is my way of retaining them. Taking them out of the time they were created and moving them forward in time. Almost an act of multiple reclaiming, or appropriation takes place in order for my to meet my own desired aesthetic, and I seem to manage this much more easily when using existing imagery rather than constructing photographic images myself for them to only fall flat as an ‘outcome’. Collages are entirely process based, and in essence have made me realise that photography doesn’t have to be solely about the finished outcome, but rather about revisiting and re-examining work until truly satisfied.

It is here that I make the point of stating my practice as research has changed the order in which I do things. Previous to conducting research, I had no initial questions to answer, and therefore no set methodology in which to go about my exploration. It is through the MA that I have now obtained a set of key research questions that I intend to explore, and from that has come a particular way of working- backwards. Using the existing imagery that is already available to me, I work with collage and photography to explore themes before producing any original works. The production of knowledge from the existing knowledge perhaps? ‘Standing on the shoulders of giants’ comes to mind. An expert in his or her field often conducts research, and having studied photographic practice for over 7 years, I now feel comfortable in changing the methodology of how I work, as I am already equipped with the foundations and skill base to form these new ideas upon.

Borgdoff states (p.52): ‘An artistic experiment in a studio or atelier cannot simply be equated with a controlled experiment in a laboratory’

After approaching this statement, I began to question my own use of the studio and/or lab. I began to look at the way I work, and they way I feel within certain environments. Working with traditional photographic practices is perhaps more scientific than other arts practices, with most of the ‘production’ happening in a closed lab-like darkroom with a set of essential processes and methods. Here, I use chemicals and tongs, wear an apron and goggles (sometimes) and cause reactions with specific timings in order to produce a scientific outcome. In contrast, when placed within a studio setting, I feel pressure to produce brilliant artworks, work constantly without distraction and come out at the end of it covered in oil paint.

I feel like my research is controlled and is an experiment, as I cannot guarantee the outcome very time. It is very trial and error, but the methods stay the same- develop, stop, fix, dry. Develop, stop, fix, wash, dry. Whether or not the photographs are of a presentable quality is I guess, down to the shooter. But this isn’t always me, as I develop a lot of found negatives. Does this then give me full experimental control?

I feel this is key to my research as a whole- can I control the research through the stage on which it is produced?

Borgdorff, H. (2011). The production of knowledge in artistic research. The Routledge Companion to Research in the Arts. Oxon: Routledge.