Category Archives: Exercises part 5 (constructed realities and the fabricated image)

Exercise: record a real conversation with a friend

Record a real conversation with a friend

Before listening to the recording, write your own account of both sides of the conversation.

My husband and I were chatting last night and he was telling me about meeting up with some old work friends since he retired from the Fire Service. He told me that so and so had moved house, so and so had moved to Red Watch, so and so had passed his ‘Crew Managers’, so and so had done something else, so and so’s wife’s business was doing well and so and so’s daughter had a baby and can you believe that all this has happened in just over six months?

My side of the conversation would be to periodically ask which one ‘so and so’ was and what was his wife’s business again?

Then listen to the recording and make notes of the discrepancies. Perhaps there are unfinished sentences, stammers, pauses, miscommunications etc.

Well in reality all these ‘so and so’s’ had names. It’s not that I wasn’t listening or that I wasn’t interested; it is that I do not know these people; I cannot imagine their faces, their homes, their wives, or anything about them so names are just names. Without some context to relate to, they have no meaning to me and as a result I cannot recall them after the conversation, or if I could I would get them mixed up.

Reflect on the believability of re-enacted narratives and how this can be applied to constructed photography. 

The exercise made me think of context and how we each bring our own experience to an interpretation. My husband would have recalled this conversation in far more detail than i did. He would have been able to add more facts and his experience would have been more personal. He would have his friends’ images and voices and mannerisms in his head, he would be able to picture their circumstances, know how they would react and so on. To me the conversation was less emotive. He was interested in these people, unfortunately, I wasn’t particularly. Next time, I will have to ask again what the sex of the baby was whereas my husband will just ‘know’ that information.

Regarding constructed photography, attention to detail is key in building a story that a viewer can relate to. Also, an awareness of audience and how different people bring their own experience to a viewing; what an image means to one person will be different to another.

If one of the ‘so and so’ friends was having the conversation, instead of me, they would have added more to it, brought previous joined memories to it, asked different questions; participated more. Similarly with photography, different viewers have different levels of participation depending on their experience.

Regarding believability, my version of events would be very different to my husband’s but both are correct to us as individuals. Likewise, different interpretations of images are all believable, just different.

What do you learn from the conversation recording process and how can you transfer what you have learned into making pictures?

For me the recorded conversation is the raw image. The recall is the individual interpretation. Regarding making pictures it has highlighted the joint nature of creating meaning in photography and the importance of both the photographer and the viewer in the experience.


Exercise: Nicky Bird (Question for Seller)

Nicky Bird

Nicky Bird ‘bought unwanted family photographs from eBay to create her own archive of unwanted photographs’

(Boothroyd, 2014)

Question for Seller re-situates images in a different context and in doing so allows for a new dialogue to take place. Reflect on the following:

Does their presence on a gallery wall give these images an elevated status?

Generally, when we think of work displayed on gallery walls we think of ‘reputable’ art. So, for someone to exhibit these ‘unwanted’ family images in this way implies that they are considered worthy of public attention; in a way that images stored in a battered old suitcase in the loft, for instance is not.

Where does their meaning derive from?

I bet we all have some old photographs at home somewhere that we cant bear to throw away even if we don’t know who the image is of anymore. There is something sacrosanct about old photographs almost as though it would be disrespectful, to the subject, to dispose of them. The meaning of these images is one that we can therefore all relate to and can agree that they should be kept and treasured. They signify that we all have a family history and a heritage that makes us what we are.

When they are sold (again on eBay, via auction direct from the gallery) is their value increased by the fact that they are now ‘art’?

Their value is only increased if someone wants to buy them. A successful exhibition will arouse interest from individuals who may find them valuable for historical research for example and be prepared to pay an increased price for them but ultimately they are only as valuable as the demand for them. The fact that they are now ‘art’ can only increase potential buyers’ curiosity which could increase demand.



Boothroyd, S (2014) Context and Narrative, Open College of the Arts.

Exercise: Goodfellas

Goodfellas directed by Martin Scorsese


What does this scene tell you about the main character

He is a man of importance, influence and power. He has money and authority and gets what he wants. People like to please him. There is something not quite genuine though.

How does it do this? List the clues.

He leaves his car for someone to park

Someone helps him to avoid the queue

He is escorted to the club

He is well known

Waiters bow to him

People want to shake his hand

‘Anything you need, just let me know’

He has money for tips

Smartly and expensively dressed

Something hidden from his girlfriend

Not what he seems