Week 13:

Week 13: Assessment break challenge
The (Photographer’s) Apprentice

During the assessment break, you are invited to work with another photographer or creative practitioner. This could just be for a day or even half a day, or it might be longer if you are able to arrange this.

You should research photographers whose work you admire, and who you feel like you could learn from, and – if at all possible – lives somewhere near to you. Contact him or her and offer your services. This can be in whatever shape or form you like: you could be asking to assist them, shadow them, help them in the office or with their archive. Whatever seems appropriate, and whatever you feel comfortable with.

Think carefully about each step. Consider who you are writing to and why, and the way you contact them. Document the process from beginning to end.

Depending on your location and circumstances, some will find this a lot more difficult a task to organise than others, and we do not wish for this challenge to be a distraction from getting on your own work. But time will be allocated at the beginning of week 1 of the next semester to share your experiences.

I wondered how I was going to achieve this task as I had several activities including visitors planned for the break. Three opportunities emerged and an additional one is to be considered for the future:

I had already booked onto a product photography day workshop at Plymouth College of Art and Design on 25th August. There were 8 attendees and one tutor. Most attendees in were producers ( e.g. three jewellers and an interior designer) or in retail and wanted to know how to better photograph and present their wares on line. One was a tutor and fashion photographer at the college. I was there to learn more about the photographic techniques in relation to taking images of debris I have been photographing for my project. Ultimately the prop I had taken along (a rusty Jeyes cleaning fluid can with its’ danger poison sign) was used by the tutor for demonstration purposes and then one of the two groups we were split into used it in their depiction of sugared doughnuts and how bad the sugar is for you. In addition no one else had a DSLR camera with them so I set up mine and adjusted settings according to what the second group wanted. We had been asked to show doughnuts as delicious and inviting. So although I was an attendee I was also contributing in a small unplanned and nonarranged way. Photo courtesy of the group and tutor:

One attendee on the workshop worked at the college and agreed to let me assist with a fashion shoot she had planned the following week. Unfortunately this was cancelled as the model was unwell and although promised a rescheduled opportunity did not emerge. I did not pursue this either as I did not want to push the arrangement in case the person had changed their mind about having me alongside. I may contact her again in a more general way without asking directly for her time at some point in the future.

I contacted the Leader of Yealm U3A Photography Project, Sue Brown. Sue is a well known and respected photographer who specialises in fine art landscapes and seascapes. http://www.susanbrownphotography.co.uk . My initial email enquiring about the possibility of time with Sue was not received. Having corrected the email address I sent it again. Sue was very generous and offered me three opportunities: to spend a few hours on office based tasks, to have time accompanying her on an image taking outing to the beach and to assist in mounting an exhibition. I replied asking if to experience all three  would be acceptable and although Sue has known me for a little while, I included the link to the Adobe Spark video I had made for the first module to show where I was coming from and a little about my project. Sue responded with a link to a togcast  in which she was interviewed which informed me about her photographic career www.thetogcast.com .

4th October 2017 10:30am to 13:30pm. I was found myself keen to be on time, to be prepared (boots, coat, cameras, water, notebook, pens etc all packed into car boot) and to make sure I thanked Sue for her time (bottle of wine). My first task was attaching backings to already mounted images and placing them in cellophane wrappers to be displayed for purchase. My second was to hand write luggage labels with the names of framed images and the prices ready to be attached to and hang down from the frames. We then loaded the car and went to the location (Chicken Shed) for the Arts Trail which features 60 artists in 18 workshops, galleries and exhibition halls organised by the South Hams Arts Forum 14th -29th October 2017 http://www.shaf.org.uk/the-arts-trail.html. Sue exhibits as one of a group of 6 local artists who specialise in sculpture, ceramics, paintings, vintage materials and wearable art. I organised the display of Sue’s cards for purchase and assisted with labels on frames and discussed plans for arranging locations for the rest of Sue’s contributions. I enjoyed all the activities, learning some of the tasks I will need to be familiar with as I develop my own photography. I am very grateful for Sue being able to spare time for me. Sue is away for a while now but we have arranged to meet again on 6th December when I will be assisting her with her exhibition organised by  the Devon Guild of Craftsmen at Bovey Tracey 9th December 2017 to 15th January 2018.  http://arenaphotographers.com/news/exhibition-news-susan-brown-at-showcase-gallery/ . Hopefully when weather permits we may be able to fit in an outing to the beach.

I have thought about contacting an artist and photographer I met at an arts fair locally some time ago Nigel Grist  http://www.theunseenview.comI then saw his images displayed in an exhibition space. He   is a member of the Creative Collective and  his interests are natural history and landscapes https://creativecollectivesouthhams.co.uk/nigel-grist/. I think he would be a very useful contact for my project.


Week 7 Peer commissioned micro projects

We were asked to commission and in turn be commissioned by another with photographic projects. The shooting should last no more than 2 hours.

“Week 7 Activity: Peer Commissioned Micro Project

Taking inspiration from the practitioners discussed during this topic, use this forum to form pairs and set each other a short brief to work on throughout the week. You should be sympathetic to each other’s locations, circumstances, resources, commitments and current practice. The shoot should not exceed a couple of hours at most, and you may be as prescriptive as you like.

When your partner sends you their brief for you to consider and then fulfill, try to keep track of your creative thought process.

You will need to compile your edited project and post this in your CRJ.”

I sent this project to another student:

“MA Photography

Week 7 Peer commissioned project

Please prepare 7 images to represent 7 emotional states in colour:








The images must feature or be dominated by the colour and do not need to include humans or animals.

Thank you,

Sarah Newton”

My colleague replied with images of a teddy bear and used light (colour gels on a two channel speed light so achieve various colours and shadows) supported by small props to complete the brief successfully. By having the same subject to focus on in each image the viewer could concentrate on the mood and expression conveyed.

 I replied:
“Thank you …so clever to use one object and the colour and lighting really conveyed mood! Also I could quite believe the bear changed facial expression and how his eyes looked for some of the emotions!
Job well done!
Thank you again
I linked into a group of three students and was commissioned by one:
“Shoot Brief
1.) Using food items create flowers, trees (nature).
2.) The message/call to action conveyed is you want people to eat healthy
3.) The mood of the images must be fun and artistic
a.) Energy
b.) fun”
My thoughts immediately turned to the imaginative and attractive ways chefs present food as well as the health promotion publicity for eating ‘5 a day’ referring to fruit and vegetables (which has in recent times been updated to 10 a day!). As I was due to go shopping I added fruit and vegetables beyond my usual requirements in order to have sufficient to try out for the shoot. On the way I recalled having some items relating to miniatures for dolls houses and other toys at home that could be used as props if I were to try to relate to children rather than adults.
“Fun and artistic” filled me with some anxiety as it made me feel that I needed to be a sort of creative genius, which I do not consider myself to be at all. I googled food art and found some inspirational ideas, mainly focussed on individual items. Later with the kitchen table covered in fruit vegetables, cocktail sticks, marker pens etc I attempted to make cauliflower florets look like sheep with raisin eyes and broccoli like trees. I even had a piece of ginger that looked like a rabbit already that I had found in the supermarket. With a circle of bananas, a sliced and fanned out tomato in a patch of daisies and a fanned raddish on a strawberry plant I tried and failed to create something that did not seem infantile and ridiculous.
In my frustration I remembered having to support my children building miniature gardens in seed trays for local annual garden shows.
So out came a mirror (used as a lake in seed trays) and on went some fruit, vegetables and props. First shots were indoors but in natural light with much rearranging of the scenes and the start of creating  stories that one might tell children to encourage them to eat healthily. Not convinced that I had hit the mark I waited a couple of days and early one morning felt inspired to try shooting outside in the garden.
I ended up running two storylines, one about a family of bears having a tea party with mushroom stools and table and one about two children reading by a lake with an option to add in postman pat at one end of the lake. I was most proud of the grapes I sliced and opened up to make lily flowers on the lake. I liked their reflections, as if on water. The pontoon onto the lake was a late addition of carrot and cheese sticks.
Hopefully I achieved 1. food items as flowers and trees 2. healthy food items (although I might have inadvertently encouraged playing with food) 3. a little fun and artistry 4. some energy (mainly mine in setting it up!) as reading as an activity was not the best choice but I was constrained by the toys available 5. energy in that things were happening in the scenes…ducks swimming on the lake as well as reading and postman pat delivering….teddy bears laying a table and giving presents and reading the guardian…. and 6. fun…this specification will depend on feedback from others!
Ultimately I had fun and got carried away….spending quite a long time with shopping and experimenting and setting up scenes but I think only a little more than a couple of hours taking the pictures. However in retrospect I failed the brief with the complexity I added to the production and the time it took especially when processing and late delivery are taken into account. The processing and delivery were delayed by other course deadlines and personal activities which took priority. Lessons well learned for future assignments during the course in addition to commissions I might be lucky enough to be given outside the course.
In processing the images I worked in Lightroom and moved onto Photoshop to try out recently acquired skills in masking out the background. This worked better for the mushroom and broccoli tree images but appeared odd for the others so they were left as they were with background grass and patio table included. My aim in trying this was to present the images as if floating on the white page of this post as one might see an image in a book for young children. Feedback and advice are welcome!

Week 9 Critical Theory

This week we were introduced to a number of ways in which images can be received, perceived, understood and reflected on. The photographers included those who have focussed on their own children (Sally Mann and Tierney Georan) and those that are abstract and representative which without explanation may be viewed entirely differently and with different emotional responses. For example, Ori Gersht in the series Liquidation (2005) presents images which are blurred and feint in their subject matter (forest) and as such are ethereal and beautiful. Then one is informed that this was a site of mass killings…..The information does have a definite impact for me and how I continue to see the images, probably in common with others. Similarly the work of Misrach (1999) Battleground Point which depicts a picturesque sand dune surrounded by water, has levels at which our understanding and apprecuation can rest. But once knoweledge is added at each tier my cognitive and emotional responses change.

Following presentations and readings this week our activity was:

Week 9 Activity: Critical Perspectives

Conduct your own research into one (or more) critical perspectives on your own practice.

Don’t be afraid to be creative in terms of what these could be, thinking beyond the fields of visual and cultural studies.

Briefly, write up your research notes and reflection in your CRJ and be prepared to discuss your findings during the webinar this week.

I chose two types of image for discussion in the webinar. The first two of the first type were of a pony club outing on a beach I was surveying for my project. I had a dilemma wanting to photograph the young riders and their ponies as this was an unusual event to witness while thinking that I should not be photographing children without their or their parents’ permission. Nevertheless, I went ahead with some distant shots which also caught the landscape that I was interested in. I did this on the grounds that many others were taking photos and as far as I could make out that included members of the public who were also using the beach, as well as parents and chaperones who had accompanied the children and their ponies. I also took some photos of the children and their ponies travelling away from the camera, a viewpoint that would not necessarily identify them, and felt much more at ease with this approach. Mann and Gearon both seem not to agree with or perhaps understand the negative views of their images that some hold. I wonder if this is to do with their being mothers and they were present during the shoots (which they were doing) and had an immediate presence re their children’s protection. Once in the public domain they could not protect in the same physical way but clearly were still mothers of the children involved, thus there was a dissonance with their maternal feelings and their viewers feelings.

Pony Club Beach outing 1
Pony Club beach outing 2

The second type of image is one image presented in two ways. Depicting a spider feasting on a fly it had clearly tied up in it’s web I wondered whether processing in different ways would have different impacts for the viewer. Although large on the screen the spider was much smaller than my little finger nail. It was one of several I viewed in the same area having an early breakfast. What caught my eye was the beautiful markings on the spider and the early morning light that lit up the scene including the web. It reminded me of the song ‘There was an old woman who swallowed a fly, I don’t know why she swallowed a fly, perhaps she’ll die. She swallowed a spider to catch the fly….’
For one version I presented it in colour and the other in black and white. Both had the same crop and a Lightroom colour cross process 2 preset. For me the colour one does create a fascination to see what is going on and a slightly yucky feeling about what it was doing. It also was more like the original image and therefore the activity felt more real. In the B&W version I felt I had presented it as more of an artistic/aesthetic view of the image, it had less of an emotional impact and might look nice on the right wall! I will present it in the webinar to see if others think there is a difference in impact and then reflect on whether the way we process our images , not just take them, can make such a difference in their impact for the viewer.

The spider’s breakfast in colour
The spider’s breakfast in black and white

Oral Presentation

The first of three assignments to be submitted for the Positions and Practice Module was the Oral Presentation. The instructions were to " Conduct and record a reflective presentation on your current photographic practice. Your presentation should critically examine the motivations and objectives behind your work to date. You should also discuss your plans for your research project, and explain how it will extend from your current practice.

  • Your recorded presentation should be accompanied with examples of your work and/or other relevant material. Make sure you include clear references to any work that is not your own.
  • Your presentation should be recorded and embedded within a page of your Critical Research Journal.
  • Your presentation must not exceed 10 minutes, and submissions in any other format will not be accepted.”

This was the first time I had made such a presentation although I am used to lecturing live and writing academic pieces. It was also the first time I had used Adobe Spark Video. My initial draft presented to peers on the course described my journey in moving from my profession as a Clinical Psychologist and Clinical Neuropsychologist to becoming a professional photographer. I was using powerpoint and speaking live to the slides as I presented them in a webinar. I had been aware that I had drawn on my previous knowledge about presentations and this was confirmed when one of the comments described it as too academic.

A different approach was then taken and presented to peers and the course tutor. ‘Developing my photography’ seemed to work much better and comments received were positive about the change although I was having problems with the alignment of narration and slides in Adobe Spark Video which I was trying for the first time in this second version. I was also advised to take the music in the background off as it was distracting from my narration and given additonal references to people and activity in the area I want to focus on in my project. The comments also included reference to style and using Harvard referencing. I did try to rework the presentation using another programme Camtasia and the add-on for powerpoint (and will try this again in the future) but I ran into difficulties with audio recording and internet connections which meant I reverted to Spark Video for the final version. The programme itself is a quick way to make a file or slide presentation and offers templates with pre set fonts and layouts and a choice of music. However, the disadvantage is that you do not have choices and control over the visual presentation of the content. Again I had difficulties with the narration and slides not synchronising and spent several days trying to work out how resolve this (each time I reviewed it the overlaps in speech and slides occured in different places!). In the end,  now it is uploaded for sharing, it seems to run smoothly much to my relief!  I do hope you enjoy it.




Multiple Media and Interdisciplinary Practices

Week 2 activity 2 Photography and….

Having thought about the photograph in relation to our own research or practice we were asked to consider what disciplines photography relates to.

I see photography as both a science and an art. Being both was a concept I was informed about in relation to medicine at a launch of the Peninsula Medical School. A piece of research was presented to demonstrate the holistic apprach taken in their teaching and was their unique selling point in comparison to other medical schools. The study featured a photograph of a blues sky with white fluffy clouds over a blue sea and in the foreground a green lawn leading to a wooden bench facing the sea view. Three groups were asked to say what they could see. Doctors saw the bench, lichenologists the lichen on the bench and artists the whole scene with all the colours therein. The same differences applied to cells in a petri dish with doctors seeing the abnormal cells, the lichenologists all cells and the artists all cells and the blood and other tissues surrounding the cells. I apologise for not having the reference or the original photo but as you can see it made an impression on me! I feel photography has the ability with current technology to capture all details in a scene and to present images in various forms depending on the intended audience and purpose. The extent to which they achieve their intended purpose will depend not only on the skills of the photographer in taking and producing the work but their own opinions and viewpoints. These in turn will be governed by their own upbringings, studies and interests as well as current social influences and pressures thereby bringing in unconscious bias. So for me there are many influences including those we are not intentionally aware of.

As mentioned above unfortunately I do not have a reference for this research and would be pleased if someone is aware of it and could provide a link for me to post (as well as enabling me to follow up on subsequent work in this area!)

9 Jun 2017  at 16:38

Multiple Media and Interdisciplinary Practices

Week 2. ‘Other than’ Photography

We were asked to think away from photography and to focus on something in our research or practice and write why we chose it and how it relates to our work without adding any photographs. We were also encouraged to read and comment on the submissions of others.

When I first looked at this task I had a word pop into my head. It does not relate immediately to photography or my inspiration for being involved in photography….but maybe it does in some way. I have  looked several times at the task and resisted writing about this word but each time have come back to it. It also  has sent me down a path of thinking about possible projects which seem far removed form my early musings (but not formed in any tangible way) about possibilities!

The word was fist introduced to me in a lecture. It relates to neurology. It makes me think about how other people see the world and this week I have been thinking about people who look at our images and trying to understand what they perceive and see.

The word also relates to another one. Both have links with my career in neuropsychology where I worked most recently with people with people with acquired head injuries, who had experienced strokes and in a first episode psychosis service. Common across these seemingly unrelated presentations were sensory impairments whether temporary or permanent. The words I am talking about are  linked with visual perception.

Prosopagnosia and Capgras delusion

Prospagnosia is an inability to recognise faces and can be developmental, congenital or aquired. It is severe, much more than occasional lapses we may get as we are getting older.

https://prosopagnosiaresearch.org/index/information (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site.

Capgras is where you perceive well known people or pets as imposters (they look the same on the outside but inside they are an imposter)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Capgras_delusion (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site.

What surprises me is the research coming out that says prosopagnosia is much more common than originally thought. One of my heroes in Neurology is Oliver Sacks who wrote The Man Who Mistook his Wife for a Hat http://www.oliversacks.com/ (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site. . Interestingly he discovered that he himself and family members had difficulties with facial recognition in later life.

Thinking about these words got me thinking about other forms of visual difficulty including colour blindness. Living with a family member who is colour blind I am constantly reminded of the difficulties….recognising traffic lights by order not colour (as red and green are the other way round!), choosing clothes that definitely do not “go” together and even buying a car they thought was one colour which they liked when in fact it was something else which they did not like! So what does this mean for me…I have wondered (I am always wondering and thinking since starting the course!) what colour blind people see in our images especially when we carefully take and perhaps manipulate colours to suit what we see and like…. what would they look like to those without the condition adjusted for colour blindness?

In marketing our work are we exclusive in terms of only selling to an audience whose sensory perceptions accord with our own?

Edited by Sarah Newton on 9 Jun at 10:20

The Challenges of Global Photography

Week 1

We were invited to coment on the challenges of global photography having written about them and discussed our thoughts in webinars. Three questions were posed to stimulate and hone our responses. My answers were as follows:

9 Jun 2017 9 Jun at 15:22
  • How do photography’s close ties with global corporations and institutions affect the kinds of images that are seen and/or how they are made? Images for such organisations are for a defined purpose, often to highlight something for awareness and vigilance (e.g. disease, war zones and travel plans) or for money (to sell products and services) or a combination of both. The ultimate presentation of the image is planned and may be constructed to achieve its purpose.
  • Do you think the global nature of photography diversifies the kind of photography that is seen, or homogenises it? I think both. On the one hand promoting for whatever purpose is an activity that naturally seeks new ways of capturing our attention to out do competitors and gain commercial advantage. On the other hand I think there is a huge amount of homogenisation which, although there is some transference both ways -local/global- of types of image and display, is largely biased towards the developed/western countries ways of seeing things.
  • Do you think there is indeed such a concept of ‘universalism’, given the diversity of cultures? How does photography ‘impose’ such ideas? This question kind of overlaps with the previous one. At the same time it differs. For example when travelling in India a while ago (mid 80s) I was struck by Kellogs and Cadbury packaging. The colours and images had some similarity but the tastes of the products was different. When I enquired further about these and other things I have subsequently noted while travelling I was informed that recipes can differ to cater for different tastes in different cultures! So they seem to be examples of local wrapped up in global to increase appeal and sales!

The Global Image

Week 1

In response to the task “Choose a global image, write about it and comment on at least two posted by others”….

5 Jun 2017 5 Jun at 17:53

I chose my image of a floating fishing village in Bintan Indonesia as there is a global story running through from the past to the future. I visited the Suku Laut villagers courtesy of the Island Foundation (TIF) in 2015 (http://www.theislandfoundation.com/Links to an external site. ). Low fishing stocks and quotas and the encroaching tourist industry on the island have meant that the traditional life of the tribes living in the communities has been disrupted. The Island Foundation aims to inform, educate and support self development for their communities to have a sustainable future. The visit raised my awareness of the local impact global initiatives can have as well as stirring concerns about how much developed societies should aim to make others “like us”. “Converting” others goes back many hundres of years and is continuing in various forms today on religious, political and commercial grounds. Nevertheless my brief visit reassured me that the aims of TIF were in this instance to be applauded and supported.

I later presented this and two other images in the weekly webinar.

The Point of Photography

Week 0

Even before the official start of the first module we were set to work and asked to select an image that had personal meaning or importance for photography. We were also asked to comment on responses made by at least two other course members. In the event I was inspired to comment on five (and I could have commented on all contributions!) as each inspired my thinking about the meaning of photography.

Haunting and atmospheric yet subject to change as the mist lifts and light changes you can imagine the image having a very different impact. That is what is appealing about photography to me. Capturing that moment so that it is not forgotten as in time it will be lost.

It’s noticing detail that you could easily walk past without seeing. For me that is something of the essence of photography. The interplay between the photographer and the equipment. It cannot be described just by the word composition as it is so much more and here a story is potentially embedded within the image.

An apparently simple image with a potentially complex meaning. Stimulating our imaginations to seek an explanation, wondering whether it is good or bad….is it an institution, storeroom, secret room….is there a room at all behind it?

The eye of the needle rather than sharp as a pin! I too share an inquisitiveness about tiny things that we do not ususally see and which need magnification to detect! Much of natures beauty and manmade objects artististic appeal lives in minute details that contribute to the whole image.

There is a harshness and potential for a fear of sharpness in this image which is enhanced by being in black and white. It also reminds me of sewing endeavours and trying (with at times frustration!) to thread the needle!


My personal response was:

1 Jun 20171 Jun at 18:49

This image is fresh, taken at first light this morning. I chose it for many reasons in order to address the first task here.

*it represents spontaneity, capturing and freezing a moment. I was holding a cuppa in my left hand and the barn owl flew past. Luckily the lens cap was off and I could take the shot just holding the camera in my right hand. I had no time to adjust settings nor both hands to do it with unless I wasted my tea!

*it is a departure from my concern about presenting a clear focussed image and may even be a move towards representation (as I think it is unmistakeably a barn owl) and dare I say, artistic endeavour. Although I passed Art O level I was not good at drawing, hence liking to capture images through photography.

*it demonstrates my interest in nature and the beauty of flora and fauna. To have such an encounter, especially unexpected is a heart stopping experience and I find myself holding my breath while taking images so as not to disrupt and potentially destroy the moment.

*it is in a way street photography of the natural world where the street is the landscape.

*it is also important as an image to me because of declining numbers and the protections it now has. To have witnessed its fly past was a priviledge and an encounter I was able to report to the Barn Owl Trust. With this action completed I brought the sighting into a national and potentially global context where animal and plant species are recognised for the protection they require from the developments/societies in the world that threaten to destroy them.

I was delighted with and encouraged by a comment I received, having uploaded a pixelated image, when the term “photographic impressionism” was used (Shmelev, S. 6-6-2017).