Category Archives: Practitioners

Ian Beesley’s Big Big Camera

The Big Big Camera

Ian Beesley was a guest at the National Coal Mining Museum today. Unfortunately, due to work commitments I was unable to visit but my husband works there and he took photographs on his phone on my behalf.

My tutor last year, Chris Coekin, suggested that I look at the work of Ian Beesley and I researched him during ‘Expressing your Vision’ here

Todays visit was in connection with a big big camera. The Big Big Camera was originally used by wallpaper manufacturers who needed large process cameras – with negatives about 20″ square. Beesley was interested in restoring the camera to full working order.

It is 100 years old and measures 5 feet high and 4 feet wide.


The Big Big Camera

Man Size

A huge lens

Quite a spectacle

Beesley said that ‘Wherever we took this camera people were fascinated by its scale and by the effort involved in making just one image. It has been great fun and a real challenge getting this far and I’m hoping to produce a full scale exhibition with this camera eventually.’ (Gallery Oldham, 2017)



Gallery Oldham. (2017). Developments with our big big camera – Gallery Oldham. [online] Available at: [Accessed 26 Oct. 2017].


Case studies for narrative inspiration – Peter Mansell

Narrative Photography

We have been guided to look at the work of Peter Mansell, Dewald Botha and Jodie Taylor as examples of the use of narrative with photography. All these practitioners are/were OCA Level 3 students; something to aspire to.

Peter Mansell

Peter had a traffic accident aged 20 and as a result he has lived most of his life with paralysis. His work focuses on how his injury has affected his life. Mansell describes how he ‘became attracted to speaking visually about things that were important to me’ (Boothroyd, S. 2014, p63) and I can see this now as being integral to using photography as ‘a means of personal expression’ (ibid, page 64). The subject has to really matter to you. It is important to have something to say, or explore. Photography can be a form of expression.


I like the idea of Mansell’s ‘table of contents’ in his work ‘Paralysis’ and the titles ‘my health’ and ‘my kit’ etc. Below is a narrative entry in the photobook ‘Paralysis’ which comes under the ‘my community’ chapter to show  related ideas and thoughts in relation to Peter’s project. I can relate to this random record of ideas as a catalyst for initiating thought and consideration of the topics raised.

Image 1  by Peter Mansell


In preparation for assignment two (photographing the unseen) I have been considering potential topics and potential ways of including narrative. Currently I am considering masculinity (and the way that gender identity is culturally determined) as a possible subject for the assignment. I have very quickly drafted a narrative idea, in the same vein as Mansell’s, for inclusion in this project if I choose to go down this route. See link below.

Masculinity narrative (random words on a page)

I am still considering this as a narrative format for my assignment but whether I include it or not, I am inspired by Mansell, as this is something that I  would like to progress further.



List of illustrations

Image 1. (, 2017)




Boothroyd, S. (2014) Narrative: Context and Narrative, Open College of the Arts (2017). Blurb Books | Blurb Books UK. [online] Available at: [Accessed 21 Oct. 2017].



Duane Michals ‘This Photograph is my Proof’

Duane Michals ‘This Photograph is my Proof’ (2017)b

Duane Michals is an American photographer who incorporates text in his work to add additional meaning to his images. The text is often on top of, or close by, his photographs. and is frequently hand written.

The text underneath the image adds emotion. Without the text we see a happy(ish) couple but the text tells us that this happiness was in the past and that picture proves that they were happy once, if not now.

This photograph is my proof. There was that afternoon, when things were still good between us, and she embraced me, and we were so happy. It did happen, she did love me. Look see for yourself!

The image alone is contradictory to the image with text. One is happy, the other sad, but both together give the viewer a fuller picture of the circumstances. Because broken relationships are part of most people’s lives at some point we can feel sorry that theirs didn’t last. There is a melancholy and regret about the wording that appeals to empathy and leaves the viewer thoughtful. 

However, my overriding response is regarding the setting of the image and that they don’t look that happy. Perhaps Michaels wanted to portray dramatic irony where the viewer sees a different situation to the ‘subject’. The man in the image says they were happy that afternoon but the viewer remains unconvinced.

Bibliography (2017) a. Duane Michals – Artists – DC Moore Gallery. [online] Available at: [Accessed 19 Oct. 2017]. (2017) b. Storyteller: The Photographs of Duane Michals – Museum Exhibitions – DC Moore Gallery. [online] Available at: [Accessed 19 Oct. 2017]. (2017). Duane Michals, “This Photograph Is My Proof”. [online] Available at: [Accessed 19 Oct. 2017].

Research point: Karen Knorr ‘Gentlemen’

Karen Knorr ‘Gentlemen’

‘Gentlemen’ images


The photographs of Karen Knorr’s series ‘Gentlemen’ (taken in the early 1980s) show the elite, (white?) male domain of exclusive gentlemen only clubs in London. This series shows the everyday life of this wealthy minority; the splendour of the surroundings, the formal suits, the paintings on the wall, the leather, the chandeliers, the silverware and the crystal.

However, Knorr’s images are accompanied by texts which make gentle fun of the situation portrayed. The text in the example below refers to the old practice of Butlers ironing the newspaper to prevent ink being transferred onto the gentlemen’s hands and results in a mocking of the privileged lifestyle by its reference to how far standards have fallen.

Similarly to Jane Austen’s opening sentence in Pride and Prejudice, ‘it is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife’, Knorr’s statement that ‘newspapers are no longer ironed, coins no longer boiled. So far have standards fallen’ is an example an ironic statement where what is actually said is not exactly what is meant; both are examples of saying one thing when you mean another.

Image above is from here here


My response

I am very aware, and interested in, both, class privilege and gender privilege and was immediately drawn to this series. The black and white gives a timeless feel to the photographs which compliments the longevity of the aristocratic and patriarchal structure of our society.

Thinking towards the next assignment ‘photographing the unseen’ I can see a parallel in this work. Not only do we ‘see’ the furniture, the clothing, the paintings and mirrors in these images but we also ‘see’ the codes of accepted practice. The formal layout of the dinner table, the arrangements of chairs, newspapers and books to facilitate learned conversation, the bust of Margaret Thatcher and the portrait of the queen to anchor the men in an environment of power and privilege. Interestingly we do see ‘important’ females in this setting but unfortunately they are relegated to being artistic interpretations only.



Hagan, S. (2017). Gentlemen by Karen Knorr review – eminently clubbable. [online] the Guardian. Available at: [Accessed 19 Oct. 2017].

Research point: Kaylyn Deveney ‘The Day to Day Life of Alfred Hastings’

Kaylyn Deveney

The Day to Day Life of Alfred Hastings

Some photographers use interviews and diaries to incorporate text with their images


Kaylyn and Alfred were neighbours and a friendship started. Kaylyn asked ‘Bert’ if he would help her with a photographic project to capture images of him and his home together with those ordinary moments that are often not considered for photography.

The Day to Day Life of Alfred Hastings

Kaylyn was seeking to portray those routines that ‘make us feel at home’ and are often ‘not usually considered significant enough to warrant a snapshot’ (KayLynn Deveney Photographer, 2017)

Kaylyn asked Bert to write his own captions to the photographs which often gave another dimension to their interpretation. An example could be with Bert’s pajamas folded neatly on the bed. Kaylyn may have taken this image to represent Bert’s  tidiness but Bert captions it as ‘a little bit of comfort’. The implication here is that he gets very little comfort elsewhere. These words act as relay narrative to tell us more than the image alone does.

Write down your own response

Increasingly I am spending more time in my life with older people, as members of my family become more dependent, and I love their company and domesticity and views on life. I can therefore particularly relate to Kaylyn Deveney’s work with Alfred Hastings. He reminds me of my mother in law who lives alone after being widowed and who has the same grace, calmness and stoical acceptance that I see in these images.

I think there is always a general fascination and interest in other people’s lives, their routines and in their homes. This series shows a widower living alone and getting on with those domestic tasks that we can all relate to; the ironing, the laundry, the shopping and so on. We all make snacks and cups of tea and plan what to watch on television; its just that we all do it differently and it is this personal insight in to how Alfred does it that ensures the intimacy of the series and creates an (auto)biography of an extraordinary, ordinary man.

How does this work reflect post modern approaches to narrative?

The work includes images taken by Kaylyn and images that Alfred owned from his past. It also includes an introductory text and handwritten captions by Alfred himself. The work is a collaboration between the subject and the photographer and we see not only a visual biography of this man but a small element of written autobiography (such as when Alfred says things like ‘ironing my laundry’) and in addition, an element of relay narrative when he adds ‘ a little bit of comfort’ and so on. The mixture of approaches work together to allow us  to enjoy what the photographer choses to depict but also to enjoy Alfred’s interpretation of her images.


KayLynn Deveney Photographer. (2017). The Day to Day Life of Albert Hastings. [online] Available at: [Accessed 19 Oct. 2017].

Research point: Sophy Rickett’s ‘Objects in the Field’

Sophy Rickett’s Objects in the Field’

Example of ‘relay’ in contemporary photographic practice


A meeting of science with art. Sophy Rickett worked with Dr Roderick Willstrop in the production of her series ‘Objects in the Field’. Willstrop was a retired astronomer who in the 1980s designed and built a three mirror camera telescope. His lenses reflected light from the stars on to black and white film to produce a negative of the sky at night. Rickett used the negatives as a starting point for producing her own prints which emphasised the aesthetic rather than the scientific.

Sharon Boothroyd explains that Rickett’s project ‘consists of several series of photographs, a monitor based video and a text, each of which reflects in some way upon her encounter with Dr Roderick Willstrop'( 2017).

The collaboration between the scientist and the artist searched for a way to combine the two disciplines but often it didn’t succeed. Rickett did relate to the idea of using lenses to ‘extend the limits of our vision’ (ibid) and made comparisons to her childhood experience of having her eyes tested and listening to the language used in that environment but Willstrop was ‘quite adamant that what I was doing was of no scientific value’ and Rickett herself says that ‘there is a kind of resistance between us and the work we do’ (ibid).

Investigate the rationale behind the work and see if you can find any critical responses to it

Rickett’s says of her work that it ‘looks at my attempts to find ways of aligning our very different practices, as well as my work as an artist with his as a scientist’. ( 2017). Rickett worked with different/opposing approaches to the same subject and I am reminded of Sophie Calle’s work which embraces the different approaches of 107 women in response to her letter of rejection from her boyfriend. Science and art are often considered to be polar opposites between fact and emotion but they each have apart to play in helping us understand the world around us so there is an element of connection between the disciplines.

Write down your own responses

I find Rickett’s work interesting but obscure to the point that I don’t really engage with it. Her rationale is puzzling. I don’t really understand WHY she wanted to merge the disciplines in this way. I understand that she is interested in interpretation and that she and Dr Willstrop are working with the same original subject (the night sky) and depicting it in different ways but to me the end results are not sufficiently dissimilar; to a casual observer the images retain a scientific feel. The relay narrative is invaluable in telling of Rickett’s experience with the eye clinic and her exposure to optical terminology and lenses. The narrative allows us to understand where her interest originated and why she was interested in representing the astronomer’s work. However, as opposed to Sophie Calle’s work in response to her ‘dumping’ letter, I find the subject matter one that is perhaps far less relatable to people in general.

How does this work reflect post modern approaches to narrative

The melding of the two disciplines and the different art forms (images, video and text) reflect a post modern approach. The relay text provides additional information and context and introduces the artists memories from childhood (having her eye tested), alongside descriptions of the view of stars from the train as she makes her way to Asia. She jumps from childhood to ‘years later’ then to her meeting with Dr Willstrop; on to being on the train at a seaside station. This is fragmented narrative is in line with post modern techniques.

Sophie included in the work a written text to accompany the prints. Below is an excerpt from the wording:

The machine in the corner of the consulting room is on wheels. There is a chinrest with a pad of disposable paper strips, so that my skin won’t have to make contact with the same surface that someone else’s has.
I might put my chin on the rest and it might get warm, and the paper strips might buckle.
‘Put your chin on the rest’
I don’t want to put my chin on the rest.
‘Put your chin on the rest’
I put my chin on the rest and it feels unnatural, my neck strains.

Below is another excerpt:

Back at home I put on my new glasses and for the first time I can see clearly beyond the middle distance

and another one:

Through the double glass window of the moving train, I am transfixed.
I see the younger boy begin to take the long slow turn to face his friend.
I see just the beginning of what is to pass between them, a fragment of story as it begins to unfold.
And the train speeds up and then I have gone.

(Little Toller Books, 2017)

This depiction of seemingly unconnected events and memories is typical of the modernist and post modernist approach that reminds me of Virginia Woolf’s writing and the way it can jump from one apparently random thought to another. Postmodernists argued that nothing can be original anymore and emphasised the creation of something new from something that previously existed, and Sophie’s use of Dr Willstrop’s negatives epitomises this technique. 


Little Toller Books. (2017). Sophy Rickett – Objects in the Field – Little Toller Books. [online] Available at: [Accessed 18 Oct. 2017]. (2017). Sophy Rickett | photoparley. [online] Available at: [Accessed 15 Oct. 2017].


Research point: Sophie Calle’s ‘Take Care of Yourself’

Sophie Calle’s ‘Take Care of Yourself’

Example of ‘relay’ in contemporary photographic practice

A summary

Sophie Calle was dumped by her boyfriend, by email, and was heartbroken. After a couple of days she had the idea to turn the email into art; a form of therapy and way of coping. Calle asked over a hundred professional women to interpret the email in keeping with their work. So, for instance, a copy editor analysed the grammar, and an etiquette consultant analysed the boyfriend’s manners; a lawyer defended the boyfriend’s actions and a mediator tried to secure a reconciliation, etc.

Investigate the rational behind the work and see if you can find any critical responses to it

The reason for the work was therapy at first and her way of ‘dealing with the suffering the world throws at her’ (Chrisafis, 2017). Calle had previously turned to art when she learned that her mother only had a month to live. She was so concerned with being there at the end that she set up a camera to catch the last moment if for some reason she wasn’t there when her mother died. With her project ‘Take Care of Yourself’, Calle’s network of 107 ‘colleagues’ may have served as a support group in turning the pain into a physical object that enables a distance to be put between the event and the suffering. The project itself would have been a distraction and a focus to move her attention away from her grief; a purging of emotion.

Clare Harris at the Artists Information Company says that the work is ‘an emotional incident that before our eyes has been objectified and neatly dismembered, in a sense worked through by a sisterhood of supporters’ . (The Artists Information Company, 2017)

Write down your own responses

I was fascinated to read that one of the 107 women, a markswoman ‘simply shot the letter’. (The Artists Information Company, 2017). To me this epitomised the vast range of different interpretations of the email.  When my sister’s husband ‘dumped’ her about sixteen years ago she was devastated and I remember that she kept all the letters, cards and emails that she received from family and friends who wrote of their support and sent their thoughts. I can see this now as a way of coping, of having something tangible as a cathartic release and as grief being ‘worked through by a sisterhood of supporters’.

How does this work reflect post modern approaches to narrative

Postmodernist rejected a linear approach to narrative and embraced fragmentation and stream of consciousness, different interpretations and ambiguity. Calle’s work reflects the post modern approach by considering a multitude of opinions and many different art forms. The work includes 107 outsiders’ interpretations of the email, performers acted out the email, singers were filmed, there are multiple different papers used, booklets, envelopes, film and images. The work brings together 107 different ways of seeing the same event.

It is not an exhibit that one can easily slip into. Disheartened, to find myself battling to read and understand the responses; the intellect and expertise of some of the women soared above my head. As well as being at times visually difficult, particularly the presentation high on the wall, the choice of font, context of language, overlays of writing and the use of perspex hindered my progress as I struggled to read and digest some of the information

(The Artists Information Company, 2017)

Reading this review section above I immediately thought of the work of Virginia Woolf. Her modernist novels are also difficult to interpret and are ( I want to say eclectic, but I’m not sure if that is right) perhaps I mean ‘refracted’, with ideas going off at tangents and characters’ soliloquies jumping from one to the other (like in The Waves).  Calle’s project utilises many interpretations to give a  complexity and freedom of expression and layering that is typical of a post modern approach.

See an interview with the artist below


The Artists Information Company. (2017). Sophie Calle, Take Care of Yourself – a-n The Artists Information Company. [online] Available at: [Accessed 12 Oct. 2017].

Chrisafis, A. (2017). Interview: Sophie Calle. [online] the Guardian. Available at: [Accessed 12 Oct. 2017].


Stephanie D’Hubert – Presence of Absence

What Remains

Part two of Context and Narrative,  begins, in the course binder, with a photograph by OCA student Stephanie D’Hubert. It is titled ‘Three unsmoked cigars in a box’ from Stephanie’s ‘Presence of Absence’ series.

The link below is to a short video of Sharon Boothroyd talking about Stephanie’s work and how the assignment submission was presented as much more than images and accompanying text. Images and narrative are combined and produced as  a very well executed book titled ‘What Remains’. Stephanie has taken photographs from her family collection and used them together with narrative to create a dedication to her late mother.

Sharon says that Stephanie’s use of space and text is as important as her images. Often there is a lot of blank space and this contributes to a feeling of emptiness and stillness which is complimentary to the feelings of respect and absence. Sharon considers that Stephanie’s use of text to add more to the images and to guide the viewer is very well executed. Stephanie’s narrative that says ‘three rings, the shape of her fingers’ is an example. We immediately get a sense that these rings actually belonged to someone, that they were worn and cherished by a real person. I can relate to this as I also have my late mother’s rings and can imagine her alive and wearing them. Like I can with my own mother, Stephanie’s’ images and narrative enable a stranger to similarly engage with this lady’s physicality and individuality.

This work has helped me to understand narrative further and to notice the difference between anchor and relay. Regarding Stephanie’s inclusion of her mother’s student card photograph, an anchor would probably have said something like ‘mother’s student card, age 16’. The fact that Stephanie adds the following narrative:

There is also as student card. In which she claims to have green eyes

gives the viewer an additional piece of information allowing us to engage with her mother as an individual. I can also relate this to my literature days of learning about ‘showing’ not ‘telling’. The ‘narrator’ doesn’t just say ‘my mother had green eyes’ but instead she lets us image her mother saying that she had. Again, bringing her personality to life a little for someone who never knew her.

I continue to be intrigued by the ability of photography to show ‘a portrait without a face’ and I liked the work of Hayley Leonard (Nan’s Hands, 2004) that I considered last year in Expressing your vison. See my post here

I was interested to pursue this idea further and took images in a similar vein to capture my husband’s portrait without a face, here


Please see the link below to Sharon Boothroyd’s discussion of Stephanie D’Hubert work

John Blakemore

In his feedback on my first assignment, my tutor suggested that I look at the landscape work of John Blakemore for his combinations of moving and still subjects. Blakemore is  British photographer who works in black and white and focuses on still lifes and landscapes.

An image of Blakemore’s that shows ‘soft’ water in keeping with what I was trying to avoid in my Dark Arches assignment is shown here The movement of the water has been blurred under a long exposure and in my assignment is typical of what I was trying to avoid.

A different image by Blakemore is available here   and is more in keeping with what I had in mind – I wanted to freeze the motion of the water in low light.

Briony Campbell – photo essay, The Dad Project

Briony Campbell’s series The Dad Project is photo essay documenting the final weeks of her father’s life. Below is a link to Campbell’s project:

The images document life for Briony and her Dad through a very difficult time and shows an intimacy that we only really see within our own families. The images present a very similar situation to one that me and my husband have just lived through, with my father in law, and show an aspect of life that cannot really be explained just in words. I could tell you how we slept at the hospital, tried to get him to eat jelly, I could describe his room in the care home and the crash mats at the side of the bed, but without images, it relies on someone to have had a similar experience to really empathise.

I also took a photograph of my father in law, about two weeks before he died. It is funny that I also wanted to capture a last image of him. I had an urgent feeling that I would be glad that I had taken it, especially for my husband’s sake.

For my analysis of this project and Smith’s Country Doctor please see this post where I compare the two projects.