What have I learnt working through this unit

Now I have completed the unit and preparing for assessment I have been thinking back over time to see what I have learnt.

Firstly, I have learnt that being able to take technically good photographs is not enough.  Photographs should actually tell a story.  And more importantly, the focus of the story does not have to actually appear in the image, but it should, by implication, be part of the story.  For example, a photograph of a pair of muddy walking boots implies that the owner has been on a walk through mud.  It implies that the owner probably wore jeans, carried a rucksack, a phone or compass, and wrapped up against the cold weather.  A very typical stereotype image of a walker, but without additional information, it is likely that stereotype image will emerge.

Secondly, a photograph should have context.  How does it fit with the background, how does it sit with other photographs.  The photograph of the muddy walking boots displayed next to a photograph of someone knitting doesn’t have the same context, whereas displaying them next to a photograph of woodland scenery does have connection and context.

Thirdly, I discovered have a voice.  My own voice.  I now have the confidence to say what I think of a photograph, and be able to back up my view.  I don’t always agree with “experts”, but I know that so long as I have a reason for disagreeing, then my opinion is as good as theirs. And it will always be an opinion.  There is no right or wrong. Our opinion is influenced by our background, upbringing, belief structure, culture, experience and many other factors, and when forming an opinion, these factors will influence our decision. So, opinions cannot always be the same, but there should always be a reason for that particular opinion.

So as I move forward, I intend to develop my own voice further and with more confidence, starting with as many gallery and exhibition visits as possible.


Science and Photography

I have come to this course from a “techy” background, and learning the more creative and artistic side of photography is very new to me.  In Assignment Two I created a series of photographs showing the workings of canal locks.  I am fascinated by the fact that even today most locks on UK canals are operated by hand, and technology has not changed since they were built.  Mechanical engineering at its finest! However, I am also fascinated by images which can be created using a camera in different ways.  My tutor suggested I investigate an exhibition: Revelations: Experiments in Photography.  I wish I had been able to view this exhibition, now long gone, but I was able to watch several interviews on YouTube, and view some of the images in Google.

What amazed me was that many of the images were created long before our modern DSLR cameras, with macro lenses.  For example the image of the proboscis of the hummingbird hawk taken by Carl Struwe in 1928.

Hummingbird Hawk Moth

Or the image of insect wings by William Henry Fox Talbot.

Insect wings

However, some of the later images in this exhibition were just as fascinating to me.  Such as the image “Blow up” created by Ori Gerscht.  He describes how he created it in an interview with Greg Hobson, Curator of Photographs at the National Media Museum.  First he arranged the flowers, froze them with liquid nitrogen and then exploded them.  He had 10 cameras set up each with its own flash to create this image.  I now intend to try this, but as I don’t have access to liquid nitrogen, I could try freezing the flowers in a freezer and see what happens. [last accessed 16/10/19].

Blow Up

Another photograper whose work has inspired me is Harold Edgerton, and his work was also on display at this exhibition..  I attempted to create his famous milk coronet in my course work in Part Three,  Exercise 3.1.

Milk Coronet
Milk Coronet © Harold Edgerton


The techniques used in these photographs are fascinating.  I plan to explore more in the future.



Creating a series

Creating a series of photographs is not as straight forward as I once thought.  I now realise having created what I thought were a series of photographs of the canals, that they should all have been taken on the same day.  I took two sets of photographs on different days and as a result the ambient lighting, the weather and the time of day all affected the outcome of the photographs.  Following a conversation with my tutor, I went through the contact sheets and reselected a series which were all taken on the same day.

So I have learnt so far that a series is not just a selection of photographs.  A series must tell a story, have a cohesive element and be similar in the way each photograph has been taken.   If exhibiting a series, then the examples should be mounted/framed in a similar way.  I have been to exhibitions where the installations have varied, but this is usually because there may be more than one series within the exhibition. So another concept to add to the mix when taking a number of photographs of the same subject.


Learning from my first assignment

I have been taking photographs for a number of years, and already I see there is a steep learning curve ahead of me to incorporate a more imaginative and creative aspect to my work.  Already, I have learnt from my tutor the importance of selecting photographs which will create a series, and linking all the photographs together with a common theme. In the first assignment, the Square Mile, I took two separate series of photographs of the area with the aim of showing the juxtaposition of the old and new.  However, my tutor saw beyond that and pointed out a common theme between the two sets of photographs: constraint and suggested I look into the work of Fay Godwin, Trevor Paglen and John Kippen.

I was fascinated by the work of Fay Godwin, as she had great influence in opening up private land for walkers.  I watched an interview on You Tube: Mavis Nicholson interviews Fay Godwin on the ‘In with Mavis’ program in1991 in which she said she loved the landscape and taking pictures, but was aware that we are ruining it by polution and littering.  Although this interview took place in 1991 it could be the same now.  The landscape is beautiful, but we are polluting it.  Her words were timeless.  She was heavily involved with the Ramblers Association and help open up many footpaths for others enjoy.

Trevor Paglan, on the other hand, explores infrastructure, internet, surveillance and “secret” places.  This fitted with my photographs of the earth satellite station in the Square Mile assignment.

I now realise I created a set of photographs which brought Fay Godwin and Trevor Paglan together through a common aim: highlighting issues around restrictions of access, secrecy and surveillance.