Category Archives: Assignment 5 Making it up

Assignment 5 (reworked)

Following my tutor’s feedback I have cropped my final image in order to improve its composition.

This is my reworked image:

This was my original image:

Cropping the top of the image and removing the bus stop sign has made the whole idea of waiting more subtle. Removing some of the branches has solved the problem of their light competing with other light and made the tree less of a presence in the image. The subjects are now positioned using the rule of thirds and the image is more balanced.


Assignment five (tutor feedback and my response)

Tutor feedback and my response

My feedback to assignment 5 was by hangout and as always there were some good points and some not so good.

The good 

My idea was good, the image was well constructed and I made good use of lighting.

The ‘before’ and ‘after’ images showing the location in daylight and then again with the final staged image at night were well received and showed how much input there was to produce the final construction.

The connection between aspects of the play (visually and metaphorically) was also good as was the inspiration for the constructed scene.

Technically the image was great with one exception. The branches were too bright, drawing the eye from the main subjects.

The colour balance was good with the orange background being a nice contrast with the main subjects.

The camera to subject distance was good being close enough to the people to see them clearly while still providing a feeling of space.

My response

What’s not to like?

The not so good

We talked about the composition and how it may be improved by cropping the top to remove the actual bus stop sign. The decision was a little uncertain though as improved composition would mean losing some of the significance.

The branches of the tree are a little too bright as they compete with the light from the mobile phones.

My writing should be more concise and I should explain my decisions rather than merely describe them.

My response

I have cropped the image to remove the bus stop which in turn removed some of the over bright branches. Removing the bus stop makes the whole idea of waiting more subtle and makes the tree less of a presence. In retrospect it was almost like a third subject and is improved by still remaining significant but by taking up less space in the image. I was happy that cropping had eliminated most of the too bright branches which reduced the way that the light on the tree competed with the other light.

Regarding my written work, I have revisited my posts to ensure that I have explained the reasons for my decisions. For example, instead of saying that I didn’t want light trails from passing cars, I have explained that light trails would not allow me to portray a deserted lane so I wanted to avoid them.

Initial image, below.

Reworked image, below.

I can see now how the tree monopolised the image and the bus stop sign was perhaps a little too obvious. Derek liked the composition in the cropped image and referred to the triangular shape formed by branches and the background trees. I must admit that I had never really noticed it but now I can’t  avoid seeing it. It does provide a frame for the subjects and the blackness of it provides a contrast to the lighted areas and keeps the eye on the subjects.

Assignment five (self assessment)

Making it up, self assessment

This assignment was to construct a stand alone image of my choice. The aim of the assignment was to use props, costumes, models, location and lighting to contribute to the overall meaning of the image. Overall, I am very pleased to have ‘transformed’ this image, taken at my chosen location,

from this…

to this …



Demonstration of visual and technical skills 

I never thought that I would be confident enough to do this. Twelve months ago I flicked through to the end of the Context and Narrative course binder to check out the final assignment and thought that there was no way I would be able to stage a photograph; and here I am, I have done it.

Once I had decided on Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot as my inspiration there was no way I could get it out of my mind. I forced myself to think down other paths but every single time I returned to the image below from a scene in Beckett’s play. 

I had a good idea of what I wanted my image to look like before I started the final shoot.  I had taken inspiration from literature, specifically an image from a production of Samuel Beckett’s play Waiting for Godot, and wanted to interpret this by taking the image at night and by highlighting a leafless tree; the main prop in the play.

Below: a reminder of the image that inspired me.

Waiting for Godot (Itzkoff, 2018)

Patrick Stewart as Vladimir and Ian McKellen as Estragon in Waiting for Godot

Visual: I have used the black sky and the highlighted branches to link visually to the original image. The visual  connection allows my image to ‘borrow’ the themes of the play. Visually I placed the branches in the foreground where they both frame the subjects and keep the viewer’s eyes on  the models. I considered whether the right hand side of the image could be criticised for having too much negative space but the lights from the nearby bridge help to move the eye along the road and the space ensures that the scene is seen to be deserted as in the image of the play. I hoped it would portray a lonely road.

The positioning of the tree created leading lines to initially draw the eye upwards to acknowledge the bus stop sign where hopefully the association with ‘waiting’ would be formed. The viewer is then led downwards via the vertical post to rest on the subjects before being pulled towards the dot of light at the far right edge of the image and back to the subjects but along the road this time.



Throughout the shoot I used my wide angle lens (16-55mm), a manual setting and set an ISO of 400. I zoomed until my characters were a significant size in the composition but there was still sufficient space around them to suggest a deserted country road with no other activity taking place and no other people. I wanted to keep the context of the road and the background and using a longer focal length would have given less context.

A tripod was essential in low light to avoid movement during exposure. To help combat movement I also set my camera on a two second delay so that pressing the shutter would not add to the movement. My subjects were warned not to move from when I called out to them. I focused throughout on my subjects’ faces and an aperture of 5.6 in most cases ensured a deep enough depth of field where the whole image was in acceptable focus.

Usually I am hesitant in increasing ISO above 100 but in this instance I wanted to have a higher ISO to offset the shutter speed somewhat. The longer the exposure the more chance I would have of seeing movement from my models who could only keep perfectly still for a short time. Aperture was f/5.6 to ensure that enough of the scene was in focus behind and in front of my subjects while still giving me a fast enough exposure to avoid movement blur. The depth of field ensures the models are the main focus but that the flowers in the background and the branches in the foreground are clear enough. A smaller aperture would have give a deeper depth of field but the risk was unwanted evidence of movement.

Props: I used props inspired by the play; the tree, two characters, hat and boots. The mobile phones had a dual purpose; to highlight my models’ faces and to show how people are so engrossed in virtual lives that they miss out on real life. The earphones were to further show a lack of interest in real communication. I took advantage of the daffodils to show how preoccupied my subjects are in their phones that they are content to turn their backs on natural beauty.

Costumes: All I asked was that my models were dressed casually and in dark clothing. The only specifics I asked for were for the man to wear a dark beany hat and some heavy shoes as these are important items that recur again and again in the play.

Models: I wanted two models and considered whether to have two men (like the play has) or a man and a woman. Because I wanted a viewer to immediately recognise a ‘couple’ I chose male and female. The fact that there is a female there, who would probably not be there alone, gave a more certain ‘couple’ interpretation.

Location: The location had to be a bus stop to signify ‘waiting’. It had to have a leafless tree and had to be along a country road. All these mirror the play to help add the play’s meanings to the image. There were a few cars that passed by and some of my contact sheets images have captured light trails but I waited for them to pass and then retook the image. Light trails were not an option as I wanted to infer a deserted area.

Lighting: I set myself a challenge with a night time image but was pleased with the way I managed to source the portable lighting, highlight the tree, use mobile phones as specific lighting for the faces and use ambient street lighting to add warmth and a staged appearance.


Quality of outcome

I am pleased with my final image, not only because I feel that I have produced an interesting image inspired by another art form but that the message of the meaningless of life, that is evident on Beckett’s play has been interpreted using a topic that is relevant to a modern audience and is current topic of discussion, that of how social media can sabotage real communication.

Interestingly, in the news recently, Weatherspoon’s has decided to close its social media accounts. Wetherspoon’s Chairman, Tim Martin, has ‘told the BBC that society would be better off if people cut the amount of social media use’ (BBC News, 2018).


Demonstration of creativity

I have approached something very new in this assignment by staging something specifically to photograph. I feel that I have created something original and something that makes a comment on modern life. I was pleased with how I ‘directed’ the scene. I seemed to confidently tell my subjects how I wanted them to stand;  lifting and lowering their mobile phones until I captured the lighting that I wanted on their faces. I rearranged the lighting in the tree until I achieved the level of dark and light branches that I thought looked best.

I spent considerable time on choosing the right location assessing different bus stops in my local area and  ensuring that the final image portrayed  the unpopulated and lonely place that the play infers.

Regarding the overall creativity of the final image, I think it provides a unique interpretation of the play whilst keeping true to its main motifs and themes. I believe a viewer will wonder about it and be interested enough to try to interpret it. I feel that it is engaging and raises questions. Who are they? Where are they? Why? How long have they been there? Is there really a bus due during the night in the middle of nowhere? What are they looking at? What is so interesting? Have they nothing to talk about? How pointless is it all?


I see my image in the context of practitioners who have been inspired by other art forms and in particular by literature.

Jeff Wall was inspired by Ralph Ellison’s novel Invisible Man and  produced an image After invisible Man to make a previously hidden character visible. Hannah Starkey, inspired by Tennyson’s poem The Lady of Shalott comments on the real world and the access of women to it. Tom Hunter has used paintings as inspiration to comment on real life situations. I hope that I have also used another form of art to inspire my comment on the often absurd meaning of life.



BBC News. (2018). Wetherspoon pub chain quits social media. [online] Available at: [Accessed 16 Apr. 2018].

Itzkoff, D. (2018). The Right Way to Say ‘Godot’. [online] Available at: [Accessed 10 Apr. 2018].

Assignment five submission (‘Making it up’)

Waiting for an answer


Inspired by Tom Hunter, Hannah Starkey and Jeff Wall who have been influenced by literature or paintings in their works, I was drawn to Samuel Beckett’s existentialist play, Waiting for Godot. The image below was my inspiration for creating an image to reflect on a contemporary interpretation of absurd communication and the seemingly pointless way in which we often fill the time.


Waiting for Godot (Itzkoff, 2018)
Patrick Stewart as Vladimir and Ian McKellen as Estragon in Waiting for Godot
Image courtesy of Bing images: in the public domain


Waiting for Godot has two main characters who wait by a tree on a country road for a third character, Godot, who never arrives. The protagonists become bored of waiting, they have nothing to do and nothing of any importance to say; they are just passing time. The play is typical of the Theatre of the Absurd which explores the idea that human existence doesn’t have any real purpose, life doesn’t make any sense and we are all increasingly alienated.

Since ‘most of the play is spent trying to find things to do to pass the time’,(, 2018) I considered how Becket might portray this waiting if he were writing his play today. I wanted to comment on our increasing reliance on ‘virtual lives’ where we have become absorbed in communication with ‘strangers’ and have ‘friends’ that we have never met. I can imagine Beckett’s characters, absorbed by their phones, looking up now and again to pass inane comment. My intention is to use Beckett’s play as an inspiration, both compositionally and conceptually to provide comment on modern life, the lack of meaningful communication and how we absurdly use technological devices in place of human interaction.

Evaluation of the process

How I found the location

In the opening scene of Beckett’s play the two main characters are waiting by a tree along a country lane in the dark. The tree is the main prop and it was essential that my staging included a leafless tree in order to create an association with the play.

I decided on a bus stop location as I considered that this was synonymous with ‘waiting’. I paid attention to my local area for several days assessing the potential of different locations. I then did a preliminary shoot which was a walk round the village to take snaps of my shortlisted locations to get an idea of whether they could work compositionally. Here are some of the locations that I considered:

I rejected the location above as I didn’t want housing in the image and the fencing was more garden than country lane, though the tree had potential. I gave it a try though, after dark, practising with just the mobile phone light at first (below).

I actually thought it had potential, as the houses were not too obvious in the dark,  but I needed more of a country lane feel.

I rejected bus shelters after I had seen them at night as they are too brightly lit with fluorescent lights in the ceiling and because a built structure was not in keeping with the play.

The location above was a possibility but I wasn’t happy with the bench. I had a reasonably successful initial test at this location though (below).

Above was just a quick test to determine whether the location had potential.

Above, I certainly didn’t want a hedge.

Above is my final location.

How I set up my work

It had to be dark to provide a visual connection with the scene from the play below. Since the clocks have gone forward this meant waiting until after 8pm. I wanted to use lighting in three ways. One, to light up the tree in a ‘Godot’ way with branches highlighted against a black sky. Two, to light up my subjects’ faces and three, to light the floor to give a staged look.

I initially hoped that car headlights would be enough to provide lighting for the tree but it quickly became clear that this wouldn’t work. The light was not high enough and positioning the car exactly as needed was impossible. I considered whether I would be better borrowing a generator to allow me to use indoor lighting equipment outdoors. However, I moved on to use two miner’s LED cap lamps as shown below.

These were ideal. They are battery operated and have a powerful directional light.

Above is how I managed the final lighting of the tree. At the base are the two miners’ cap lamps to light from below and a torch set on the wall to add light from mid height. The road is lit from street lights and the intention was to light the models’ faces from their phones.


How my direction went

Below is a more relaxed moment when my ‘models’ were waiting to be ‘directed’!

A short break

I knew what I wanted my image to look like beforehand. Black sky, stark branches, concentrating expressions, a couple engrossed in their individual lives, so I feel that compositionally I achieved my intention. Regarding lighting I was pleased with how I sourced the lamps and positioned them, and I was pleased with the location. My main personal achievement was in organising the ‘shoot’. I directed my models on where to stand, how to position themselves and where to hold their phones to direct the light and felt that I was in control and knew what I wanted.  

Regarding the success of my message I feel that the concept of waiting and the reference to the largely futile nature of modern communications has worked well, and I hope that Beckett’s play is evident to those who are familiar with it.

A word about props

Regarding props, I was insistent on a leafless tree that I could access with lamps. I also needed my subjects to hold mobile phones to provide light on their faces and to articulate the current obsession with phone technology. I wanted one of my subjects to be wearing ear phones to further convey a lack of interest in communicating with real people. A closer inspection shows the man wearing a hat and heavy boots, both significant props that are integral to Beckett’s play.

My models were my husband and twin sister and I hope that they conveyed a couple as opposed to two strangers at a bus stop. I considered two men, in keeping with the play, but thought that a mixed sex couple would more easily portray a relationship.  Their stance, nearly touching, was intended to communicate a closeness. If these were strangers they would be invading each others space. Casual clothing is also inspired by the play. In addition, the daffodils are not circumstantial; they are deliberate. I wanted to show how a couple, who are so intent on their phones, with their backs to the flowers, are missing the beauty of real life, at the expense of their virtual lives.

How did this process affect the final outcome

Trying different locations showed me what worked and what didn’t work and led me to considering different settings, rejecting them and searching for something better. This repeated consideration led me to choose an ideal setting. I wasn’t prepared to ‘make do’.

The trial and error with the lighting and the rejection of car headlights and weaker torches made me more aware of the effect I wanted to create and made me conscious of the different effects that different lighting had.

Constructing this image has made me more aware of composition, lighting and concept and I have learned a great deal about photography as a language with which I can convey  my ideas. More than that though, I have gained in confidence and am keen to articulate my ideas through photography.

Contact sheets

Contact sheets Assignment five (Making it up) annotated


e8bloggt. (2018). Waiting for Godot: Silence pours into the play….. [online] Available at: [Accessed 28 Mar. 2018]. (2018). Waiting for Godot Analysis of the Play. [online] Available at: [Accessed 28 Mar. 2018]

Studies, V. and Death, W. (2018). Waiting For Godot: Silence and Death Book Report/Review. [online] Studentshare. Available at: [Accessed 28 Mar. 2018].

UKEssays. (2018). Waiting For Godot Essay | Analysis of Waiting for Godot. [online] Available at: [Accessed 7 Apr. 2018].

Assignment 5 (preliminary work)

Making it up: preliminary work

Having been inspired by Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot to present the idea of  engaging in absurd communication while pointlessly passing the time (in the context of the Theatre of the Absurd which suggests that there is little meaning in life) I considered how I would visually articulate my meaning. Below is an insight into some of the thoughts I had.

This image was my initial inspiration:

Waiting for Godot (Itzkoff, 2018)
Patrick Stewart as Vladimir and Ian McKellen as Estragon in Waiting for Godot
Image courtesy of Bing images: in the public domain


Two rejected locations

In the opening scene of Beckett’s play the two main characters are waiting by a tree along a country lane in the  dark.  I wanted my subjects to be waiting for something and my first idea was to place them waiting at a road sign, not the bus stop that I eventually decided on. The Theatre of the Absurd is meant to be irrational and having people wait at a traffic sign would certainly be that. Below is a snapshot taken just to test my idea.

I briefly considering a cemetery as a location for my final image with the connotation of someone waiting for the end of life whilst engaging in meaningless activity during his wait. However, it was more removed from the play than I wanted as the play does have comedy moments. So, I moved on to a bus stop location, albeit with a little hesitation, as I thought the cemetery did have some potential. Here is a snapshot of a my rejected  cemetery location.

I preferred the idea of a bus stop though. The mental connection with a bus stop and ‘waiting’ is instinctive and I wanted the viewer to immediately think of the word ‘waiting’ when viewing my image in order to connect it to the play’s title, Waiting for Godot, in their mind.

But all bus stops are not created equal. Some bus stops had benches or walls and I  considered them as something for my subjects to sit on, but decided on standing as this is more often seen in the play. The characters sit on a rock now and again but I don’t recall a bench. I quite quickly rejected a bus shelter. Partly because the lighting was too bright as they have fluorescent strips in the ceiling but mainly because the scene was more suited to being free of a built construction.

My final location choice is shown below, in daylight.

I liked the country lane  and the stone wall and the fact there was no indication of housing estates or fences. I also knew that I could position the tree (bottom left) in the foreground, if I took a viewpoint to the left of it, and focus on the bus stop (where my subjects were going to stand) while still having some sense of space and depth.


I practiced in my own garden one night to check that the miners’ LED cap lamps would give the effect that I was looking for and was very pleased with the results as they lit up the tree with a cool direct light as I had hoped. My concerned neighbours however were worried as, from their front window, they thought someone was intruding in our garden and quickly came round to check all was ok.

Regarding lighting up my subjects’ faces I was optimistic about using the light from the mobile phones that were to be significant props in the final image. I was surprised by the amount of light that these provided and in some shots my models’ faces were too bright. I had practiced with these at one of my previously considered locations and was pleased that there was sufficient light to show my subject’s expression of concentration and oblivion as he concentrated on his phone.


Above – practice using mobile phone light.

The only other light that I needed was the ambient lighting from the street lights on the country lane. These added a warm light to the image and contributed significantly to the ‘staged’ effect that I wanted to achieve, especially how its effect was seen on the road surface in the final image.


Assignment five (first thoughts and ideas)

Making it up

The brief is to construct a stand alone image of my choice. The image must be controlled and directed by me for this purpose. Before making a final decision on how to approach the assignment I took some time to consider some of my different ideas.

Staged image (idea one)

The Bell Jar

Inspired by the links to literature that we have been introduced to on this course and in particular by Jeff Wall’s After Invisible Man and Hannah Starkey’s Self Portrait 2  inspired by Tennyson’s’ The Lady of Shalott,  I considered a staged image inspired by Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar; a semi autobiographical novel showing the protagonist’s experiences with mental ill-health. The bell jar is a metaphor for the protagonist  feeling trapped as a woman and how she envies the freedom that men have in comparison.

I considered staging something to represent this confined feeling that Plath’s character, Esther, must have experienced, preferably by using glass as a closer representation of a bell jar than any other means of confinement (ropes, walls, fences, barbed wire, etc).

Photo courtesy of Bing images

I found the image above during my research and considered how it suggested confinement. The lady portrayed in the photograph represents a lady who (rather like the Lady of Shalott) can see the world but cannot take part in it.  I thought the image was a little straightforward conceptually though I liked the lighting and how the black and white could represent a loss of involvement in the ‘colour’ of life. This image prompted me to take some images with my face confined by a glass bowl to see what the effect would be.

Above, I liked the idea that the confinement was portrayed as a physical pressure against my face as though feeling trapped can have a physical effect as well as a mental one.

Above, I don’t think this image worked as well as the first one, as the shape of the bowl was more obvious. In its favour however, the downcast expression reflects a powerless and accepting  position and the glass is a physical barrier to the real world.

Even though I didn’t progress to using this idea for the assignment I found that spending time in considering it has made me more confident in trying different forms of expression and in taking risks.


Staged image (idea two)

News is to the mind what sugar is to the body

I have been getting sick and tired of reading and watching terrible news items. Everywhere I turn I am aware of the world and its murders, rapes, abuse, shootings, health scares, hate crimes and so on. Articles on terrible atrocities in our world that, according to Rolf Dobelli in the Guardian, can be ‘toxic’ to the mind and can result in mental ill health. Dobelli says that

‘news is to the mind what sugar is to the body’.

(the Guardian, 2018)

I became very interested in the idea of bad news being the same to our mental health as sugar is to our physical health and wondered if the two ideas could work together to highlight the negative effects of the daily barrage of bad news that we are exposed to.

Here are some of my thoughts around a possible staged image.

  • I thought about all the harmful sugar based foods that we are exposed to and considered showing them all served up and overflowing on expensive crockery, looking very attractive, to highlight not only the quantity of harmful foods that we eat but also acknowledging clever advertising that presents sugar as real food; cakes and buns and sweets and chocolates, etc. I remembered the advert deconstruction that we did on the Panzani advert and applied the learning from that to this potential project. I considered how attractive foods could imply a party, their overflowing positioning could suggest opulence, plenty, generosity and luxury.  However, I rejected this idea as being too clichéd, too overdone already and not very imaginative. That said, I do think there is a great deal to say about the food industry, and about the news industry, and will look forward to perhaps considering this, as a manipulation of society, further at a later stage.
  • I moved on to think about bad news making people ill and showing a ‘diet’ of murder, rape, war, etc. using guns, blood and headlines on plates instead of food. Again, I think this has been overdone and is simple in concept.
  •  I thought about a breakfast setting of sugar foods shown against horrendous headlines to represent the way we are manipulated (by the powers that be) to eat certain foods and to read certain articles. A bowl of sugary cereals against shocking headlines in the morning paper could show how we are virtually forced to start every day contributing to our own physical and mental ill health. After completing assignment three where we used diary excerpts to add narrative to a photo series, I thought of images of food displayed in a photobook with alternate pages of written headlines of bad news to show how big business contributes to poor physical and mental health.


Staged image (idea 3)


  • Emetophobia cropped up again. I had seen a post on a fellow students blog  that I felt was vey brave and successfully considered bulimia. I was inspired by this work  to revisit Emetophobia again as a staged image. However, I think there is such a lot to say about this condition that it would work better as a series.

Sick of Bulimia’ by a fellow student ‘photosociology’

A short while ago I did experiment with images around Emetophobia and this is one that I thought showed the distress quite well.

If I go on to consider this subject further I have ideas in my mind of what types of images would convey the reality of living with this phobia. I think of a handbag containing mints and antacid tablets; sell by dates on foods, overcooking food, throwing food away, having a stock of plain biscuits nearby, concentrating on the vegetarian options on the menu, cars pulled over at the side of the road with their indicators on, headlines about Norovirus, etc.

Staged image (idea four)

Waiting for Godot

I  returned to my literature passion and came across an image of a production of Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot and I couldn’t get it out of my mind. I have always been interested in this play and am fascinated by the Theatre of the Absurd which considers the idea that human existence has no real meaning. It was clear to me that I wanted to work with this play for this assignment and I was like a dog with a  bone, refusing to let the idea go.

I considered how the majority of images relating to this play look ‘staged’ with high contrast and directional lighting and very few props, and I felt that this was something I would like to consider for this assignment.  One of the themes of Waiting for Godot is the consideration of the meaninglessness of life. The main protagonists speak and make very little sense, their dialogue is absurd, they became bored of waiting and just exist by filling time until Godot should arrive.

Image courtesy of Bing images (public domain)

I considered how I wanted to use Beckett’s themes of waiting and pointlessly filling time  and transfer them to an ordinary everyday situation with two subjects waiting and engrossed in mobile phones.

This image below by Simon Roberts Motherland (Simon Roberts, 2018) caught my attention with the man waiting and alone. The title of the image may guide us, as viewers, to the buildings but for me the man waiting on the bench captured my interest for this assignment. It was the loneliness that it portrayed but I couldn’t help wondering if he was actually texting on his phone.

Image by Simon Roberts Motherland
A new development of luxury apartments, Moscow. Central Region, July 2005.
(Simon Roberts, 2018)




HuffPost UK. (2018). What Constant Exposure To Negative News Is Doing To Our Mental Health. [online] Available at: [Accessed 26 Mar. 2018].

The Guardian. (2018). News is bad for you – and giving up reading it will make you happier. [online] Available at: [Accessed 26 Mar. 2018].

Simon Roberts. (2018). Motherland – Simon Roberts. [online] Available at: [Accessed 26 Mar. 2018].