Assessment pack pt 1: research and inspiration

Before going into any detail on my own assessment pack (in a separate post) I want to start with a little wider context on photographic presentation.

As I have probably mentioned frequently in these pages, Gesture & Meaning is quite an eclectic course, being made up of four genre-specific sections followed by two academic assignments. The challenge for assessment presentation is how to present such a diverse array of projects in a coherent manner.

Helen my tutor suggested looking at photographic presentation in other projects that contain a selection of different materials, to see if there were ideas or directions that I could pursue in some way.

Three projects sprang to mind: Eamonn Doyle’s End, the catalogue that accompanied the 2016 exhibition of evidential photography ?: the Image as Question and the Foto/Industria 2013 catalogue box. Each, in different ways, dealt with the point of collating multiple items into a coherent whole.

Eamonn Doyle’s End

The exhibition of Doyle’s trilogy of Dublin projects, ION and End was the highlight of my visit to Arles this year. It featured a breathtaking array of presentation methods, materials, colour schemes, sizes and sounds, turning the photography exhibition into more of a multi-sensory experience. It made me realise that there are many possible ways of presenting photography and 90% of exhibitions play it rather safe.

I ordered the book that specifically covered the most recent project, End, as soon as I got home. It’s not really a book as such, but I’m not quite sure that the right word is! It’s a kind of a boxset of photographic artefacts. It comes in a white leather-style slipcase, covered in yellow cellophane.

The contents include concertina fold card prints, pamphlets, posters, and even a translucent tracing paper-esque sheet that wraps around a 7″ single (haven’t seen one of them in a while). The prints and pamphlets are slim enough to mount and frame as pieces of art without dismantling them – as I did for my favourite image.

It’s a hugely impressive piece of work, and really plays with what an ‘art book’ is, or can be.

Takeaway points

Thinking of how (or whether) to apply this approach to my own G&M assessment presentation: I concluded that this kind of diversity of material works really well for Doyle as he has the strong backbone of coherent content (the streets of Dublin) running through the work. My challenge is that the four photographic projects are really quite different in genre, content and tone – so applying an eclectic presentation approach might actually make the whole thing just too incoherent.

I came away from examining this particular work with the sense that there needs to be a strong line of consistency in either the content or the presentation method. I will return to this point.

?: the Image as Question

This exhibition at the Michael Hoppen Gallery in London was on evidential photography, an extremely broad and flexible subject – the kinds of images included reportage, forensic, investigative, judicial, astrological, even record sleeves. The catalogue that accompanied the exhibition was particularly interesting – so much so that I bought one.

It’s presented in the form of an evidence folder, with all the component parts inside held in place loosely by an elastic spine. It means that one can remove or order the contents in an almost infinite number of combinations. It also means that, like the Doyle work above, one can easily remove and frame an individual print (again, I did).

In contrast to the Doyle boxset, this has an eclectic set of contents in terms of subject matter. Like the Doyle set, it uses different materials and sizes of print, in this case tailoring each artefact to the content and format of the original image. So it’s kind of a hybrid format in this sense.

What makes this eclectic mix of both inner contents and presentation formats really work is the ‘wrapper’ – the conceit of treating all the diverse components as items of evidence. The existing cultural code of the ‘evidence folder’ is exploited to provide a veneer of consistency and coherence to what would otherwise be a bit of a mish-mash.

Takeaway points

Again, though this execution is interesting and it ‘works’ for this set of images, I don’t believe that the contents of my four photographic assignments can really be crowbarred together into an arbitrary category like ‘evidence’ as used here, and even if I did go down that route, I’m not sure what the unifying theme and therefore ‘container’ would be.


A couple of years ago I bought this boxset of booklets when I was researching workplace photography. It was the catalogue for a photographic festival that I hadn’t attended (nor even heard of to be honest) in Bologna in 2013.

The catalogue is 17 individual square booklets presented in a grey shell box. The spines are all exactly the same thickness and designed with a small black bar that steps down the set like a staircase. The colour subtly shades from yellow to green and back again. The set is clearly designed to work beautifully together when filed in the box.

The contents are very eclectic though; the loose connection is that they are all somehow related to business, but they range from ad campaigns to company reports to corporate portraits to factories to offices.

I really like the format, as I find it gives a strong, professional backbone of consistency to what is in fact quite a diverse set of exhibitions.

Takeaway points

Though they are physically quite different, this ended up being the strongest parallel to my own implementation. It marries very eclectic content to a highly standardised and consistent set of design principles – not just a surface ‘wrapper’ like the evidence set above, but a design style that persists throughout every one of the 17 booklets.

What I took from this is that if the overarching design ‘rules’ – layout materials, colours, typefaces and so on – are both consistent and professionally done, this provides the connecting  thread to compensate for the component projects themselves being quite differentiated.


Doyle, E. (2016) End. Dublin: D1

?: the Image as Question (exhibition) Michael Hoppen Gallery, London autumn 2016

Various (2013) Foto/Industria: Bologna Biennale 01 Bologna: Contrasto


Assignment 6: potential examples

I had a bit of a breakthrough with planning out my critical review this weekend, when I took out a bunch of photo books to pick out example images to support my intended line of argument. The following images won’t all make it into the essay as examples, as I have multiple images to support the same point in some cases,  but just collecting a longlist has helped to focus my mind on how to structure the subject matter.

I’ll explain more in my next post, which will be an outline essay plan. Until then, here’s the image selection that I may be working with whilst I write:

Assignment 6: research and preparation

I’ve spent most of this last week trying to wrestle the subject area of my critical review (in short: overcoming the limitations of the still photograph for narrative) into some kind of shape, as it is potentially a little sprawling. I needed to get my thoughts down in the form of a mind map and then start honing it down into a line of argument.

Mind map

I’ve been using mind mapping for assignments for a few months now, and I’m definitely a fan. They help to capture the breadth and depth of a subject, and help me to identify connections, overlaps and gaps. To some degree they help with the essay structure, although that’s maybe more a function of the essay plan (to follow).

I usually do my mind mapping straight into an iPad app, but for the first time the subject area felt so vast that I started on an A3 pad:

Once I felt this was as full as it needed to be, I transferred it onto the digital format. Maybe it’s psychological, but even just repeating the same words in a neater format feels like progress :-)

Line of argument

There are a few different ways I could structure this essay, and to be honest right now I’m not completely sure which way to go. It will depend on the hypothesis I choose: what angle I’m taking, the point I want to make – this will help me to determine the ‘backbone’ of the essay. The sequence of arguments and the introduction/conclusion bookends will fall into place from this backbone. My approach here is influenced by the fact that my last essay, for Documentary, went through a complete re-write when I conceded that my first draft did not have a strong core hypothesis. I am trying to avoid repeating that mistake.

The basic ‘bookends’ of hypothesis I have in mind is something like:

  • Introduction:  (phrased as a question) Can a photograph tell a story?
    • Alternative phrasing: start an appropriate quote and interrogate it
  • — [middle bit] —
  • Conclusion: no, a single photograph cannot tell a story in and of itself
    • But there are clever ways of working around it

It’s the middle bit, the line of argument, that can be organised in a couple of different ways…

  • Address the subject from a point of view of a fundamental genre split
    • Fact (documentary)
    • Fiction (art, advertising)
    • Discuss approaches that are appropriate to each genre based on their inherent characteristics
  • Address the subject from a point of view of the different types of approaches employed
    • Internal i.e. within the frame
    • External
    • Mental modelling
  • Address the subject from the point of view of characteristics of narrative
    • Temporality
    • Transition
    • Characters
    • Apply each to single image photography and discuss techniques for working around them
  • Narrow it down to one major limitation to address: temporality
    • Examine techniques employed to lend a sense of time to the still image
    • Look at it from either genre-first or approach-first point of view, per options above

Next steps

  • Make a decision on the central line of argument
  • Write up an essay plan
  • Send to my tutor for comment

Assignment 5: progress

As well as doing a mind map recently to organise my overall thoughts for this presentation, I have been working on a number of other strands in terms of context, structure and key messages – summarised here as a progress update as otherwise it might look like the final assignment arrived fully-formed (far from it).

My tutor is always reminding me that I need to document my working processes as I go along, layering up to the final delivered piece of work. I think this applies to academic assignments like critical reviews and oral presentations as much as photographic ones.

To this end, here are some reasonably structured updates on how I’ve been approaching the assignment.


I’m a huge believer in the importance of a good title – I’ve blogged about this before on previous assignments. I often find that a project really starts clicking into place when I believe I have a title that suits it.

This time around I was looking for a succinct main title – short titles suit audio-visual presentations in my opinion – that could be further clarified with a subtitle.

One of the driving forces behind my attraction to the subject matter is my fascination that one genre of photography is used within another, yet subverts its original intent – a ‘true portrait’ is about the individual, while a ‘documentary portrait’ uses an individual to represent a wider point. The former is defined ‘inside-out’ while the latter is defined ‘outside-in’, if that makes sense. I want to get across this ‘it is but it isn’t a portrait‘ dichotomy.

My planned title for the presentation is:

Portrait Not Portrait

My more descriptive subtitle is in effect my working title so far:

Portraiture as a device in documentary photography


I had originally envisaged a simple three-part structure following the advice of my tutor:

  • History
  • Contemporary practice
  • My own practice

Working on the aforementioned mind map made me realise that there is a need for a short upfront section at the beginning to define my terms. It’s just a couple of slides but it really helps to correctly frame everything that follows. In particular I wanted to clearly present my distinction between a traditional portrait and a documentary portrait, as described above.


I’m increasingly a visual thinker, so as well as doing the mind map I really wanted to make sure I had a presentation format that I felt best served the content. T0 this end, after I’d started my research and brainstorming I mocked up the presentation template that I want to the content to drop into.

My main criteria were:

  • Image-centric
  • Clean and contemporary

So far I am working with the template shown below:

Screen Shot 2016-11-07 at 11.13.23.jpg

Seeing the presentation itself take shape in parallel with the content being formed and tweaked is how I work best on things like this. The building up of the presentation in layers, filling in levels of detail iteratively, suits the way my mind works.


Here’s a summary of the planned content of the presentation and the arguments I want to get across.

“What” – definitions

I’m reasonably comfortable with these two slides so far:

  • One defining genres of portraiture and documentary photography
  • One differentiating between a traditional portrait and one used as a documentary device

“Then” – history

In the mind mapping stage I worked out how I want to organise this section – a chronological history seemed inappropriate and potentially overwhelming for five minutes of content, so I think a more useful way of looking at the past is to identify a few categories of documentary portraiture, from a point of view of intent, e.g.:

  • Typology
  • Ethnography
  • Empathetic social documentary
  • Self-expression

This lends itself to map on the types of representation I listed in the definitions section:

  • Metaphor
  • Metonym
  • Narrative device

I also wish to analyse in this section some of the common visual language used in historic documentary portraiture.

I will touch upon some ethical aspects of critical theory (such as the Gaze, the Other etc) but to go too deeply into these could derail the main flow so I need to be careful here.

“Now” – contemporary practice

For consistency I will also look at this from a category point of view, looking at a few different types of documentary portraiture evident among current practitioners.

I want to use this section to highlight some ethical comparisons with how documentary portraiture has been done in the past, in particular ideas around respect for the individual.

I also want to examine the visual language being used by some key contemporary photographers, and how this has evolved from the more straight portraiture employed in the past.

“Me” – my own practice

This is where my recent research has taught me things about my own work that I hadn’t previously recognised. Looking at the different uses of portraiture in documentary and then applying the categorisation retrospectively to my own project archive has been an eye-opener. I am now more aware of how I’ve used people in my projects.

I most often use metonymy, as in using a person to represent a wider group or situation. I very rarely do purely typological projects, however – the use of person as exemplar / archetype is normally in the context of serving a wider narrative rather than being the end in itself. Occasionally I use a portrait as a metaphorical device, and I will include an example or two of this in the presentation.

The research has made me think about how to more consciously use portraiture in projects going forward. It has made me think about the ethical issues around using people as representatives over individuals, and how to mitigate the risks.

Specifically regarding subject matter, I’ve recently realised that a majority of my projects have been one one of two subject themes – which can overlap but are also separable: firstly, social inequality; and secondly, voluntary organisations. Both of these lend themselves to a respectful use of portraiture. I will expand on this a little in the voiceover.


I want the presentation to be very visual. Text should be kept to a minimum. Images and voiceover should carry the majority of the key messages. I’ve been gathering images for the last few weeks and will determine which are best suited to supporting my points per section/slide as I build up draft versions of the presentation. Some examples below:


Last but not least, I’ve been testing out the technology. I’m using Apple’s Keynote presentation app rather than PowerPoint, and I’ve trialled recording a voiceover to match the slides, and exporting the presentation to a video file. Both tests were reasonably successful. My main learning was to get a microphone to plug into my computer, as the sound from the internal mic is distractingly tinny.

Next steps

  • Select example images per section
  • Construct draft slides per section
  • Produce first full draft in next couple of days
  • Refine and publish for comment
  • Finalise for tutor submission

Assignment 5: proposal

After a fairly intense first four sections on this course it was a pleasant surprise to see that sections 5 and 6 have no coursework, only an assignment each.

Assignment 5 is the oral presentation, and the brief is detailed below, with annotation where appropriate.


For your oral presentation, you’re free to choose from any of the study areas on this course – social documentary, fine art photography, portrait photography or advertising photography.

My tutor advised me to make the subject of the oral presentation (and the critical review) something that fits in wth my own practice and/or my developing personal voice. My realisation of recent weeks is that my work is predominantly most closely aligned to documentary photography in some form or other – the subject matter is always based on some reality rather than acts of pure imagination.

I’m attracted to what might be termed ‘expressive documentary’ (or ambiguous, or poetic…) rather than straight, didactic social documentary. I like to lean towards the ‘creative treatment’ part of John Grierson’s definition of the genre as “the creative treatment of actuality”.

With this in mind, I want to make both my oral presentation and critical review documentary-focused to one degree or another. However, I don’t just want to run through a potted history of documentary photography here, I want to look at how it borders with or overlaps into one of the other genres listed above.

After briefly considering the overlap between documentary and fine art, I landed on an examination of the use of portraiture in documentary projects. More details below.

Prepare your presentation in PowerPoint and deliver it to camera. Your presentation should demonstrate your understanding of the underpinning issues behind your chosen area of study and how you’ll adapt them to your own future practice.

Not sure if or why PowerPoint is mandated, as the final output is a video file – I know other students have used iMovie, and I was planning on using Keynote… we’ll see.

Your presentation should look at:

  •  the historical background
  •  contemporary practitioners, visual language, influences and contexts
  •  the relevance to your own practice
  • your future plans and direction and possible projects relating to this area of study.

Your presentation should be 15 minutes long (± 2 minutes).

From discussing this with my tutor, her recommendation is to divide the presentation into three five minute segments, first on the history, second on the contemporary use and third combining the last two points about my current work and future plans.

Post your presentation onto the OCA website or to your own website. There must be a facility for student reviewers to ask you questions about your presentation and for you to reply and post both questions and the answers that you give.

I’m going to see if I can embed it directly here on this blog.

Proposed theme


Portraiture as a device in documentary photography

… meaning the use of pictures of people not to communicate something about the character of the subject (as per the traditional definition of a portrait) but to illustrate a wider social documentary issue.

This can take various forms:

  • Person as symbol (metaphor)
  • Person as specimen (metonymy e.g. typologies)
  • Person to illustrate narrative point

I do want to place certain criteria on the subject however, to avoid the scope become too broad – I want the images I select as examples to resemble a portrait, even if the intent is different.

  • Person is the main subject matter in the frame
  • Person is aware of being photographed

I have a few photographers in mind already – August Sander, Robert Frank, Alec Soth, Zed Nelson, Charles Freger, Daniel Meadows – but I’m sure I’ll come across and include many others…

Next steps

  • Research historic photographers
  • Research contemporary photographers
  • Draft an outline structure

Assignment 4: context and inspirations

Whilst I tried to avoid any direct, conscious influences on this assignment – as it was a very personal project that I wanted to deliver in the way that felt right to me – I am aware that it exists in a context of related works and it is inevitable that some will have provided some inspiration to me.

In this post I look at such context and inspirations under four headings:

  • Photographic responses to tragedies
  • Artistic responses to the Nice attack specifically
  • Concept of embedding realistic text in photographs
  • Calendar design

Photographic responses

Whilst there is a significant body of work built up over the years around the response to, of aftermath of, specific tragedies, I was more specifically interested in those that are in some way centred around the people impacted by such events – either in terms of honouring the direct victims or examining the impact on those left behind. My project is intended to be simultaneously a memorial to the dead and an expression of the emotions that the survivors and the bereaved might be going through.

My tutor Helen gave me a few pointers. Paul Fusco’s 1968 RFK Funeral Train series is perhaps a touchstone for this kind of photography.

RFK Funeral Train, 1968 by Paul Fusco

It focuses on the mourners lining the route more than it does Robert Kennedy, and the movement of the train gives a motion blur to the images lends an air of bewildered sadness, whilst simultaneously speaking of the transience of life. It’s hard not to see the people mourning not so much the death of an individual but of an ideal, a potential future.

OCA student Stéphanie d’Hubert (who coincidentally commented on one of my preparatory posts for this assignment) did a photographic and video project The Crowd about her individual response to the Paris terror attacks in January and November 2015. It’s a very personal reaction to being away from her home country at the time of the attacks, as evidenced by the subtitle Je suis trop loin (I am too far away).

Stephanie Dh.jpg
The Crowd (2015), 2016 by Stéphanie d’Hubert

Stéphanie uses photos and video to communicate “the profound sense of disorientation and disconnection that ensued in the aftermath of these events”. It’s expressive, visually poetic and experimental. It is though a very different approach to the one I ended up taking. It’s good to see however the many different ways there are to react to events such as these.

These two examples both express the emotions of the bereaved, the left behind, the indirectly rather than directly affected. I wanted to dig further to find examples of work where the victims themselves are more prominently referenced.

Paul Seawright’s Sectarian Murder series (1988) came to mind. In this he does not name the victims of the murders but describes them using text from newspaper reporting of the time. Each image is about a particular murder, and the text description is key part of the photograph.

Sunday 9th July 1972 (1988) by Paul Seawright

As an aside, one of the most powerful aspects of the presentation of the images is the deliberate use of white space around both the image and the text; it gives a sense of silence and thinking space that enhances the sensation of considering the death of an individual.

Faces of Srebrenica (2015–ongoing) is a collective project by Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty to bring together photos of those killed in Srebrenica in the massacre of July 1995. So far photos of about 2,400 of the estimated 8,000 men and boys have been collected.

Faces of Srebrenica, 2015-

It’s an extremely simple but potent device. Each image is cropped to a headshot (with a few exceptions) and the name and age of each victim is given. It’s the accumulation of similar-but-different faces that gives this its power. One can simultaneously consider the scale of the massacre (and therefore the wiping out of a couple of generations of a community) and of the individual stories behind each picture, since these are predominantly edited from family snapshots donated to the project.

Responses to the Nice attack

There were (still are) a huge amount of memorial responses around the city itself, most of which are individual spontaneous expressions of grief (flowers, candles, toys etc) –  in huge numbers though they form a kind of accumulated visual expression of public and private grief, almost sculptural in look and feel.

Some more intentionally ‘artistic’ works also started appearing:

The city’s official response was a pair of banners outside the mayor’s office listing the victims’ names.

Banners at the Nice Mairie, August 2016

Though very simple and without any particular artistic intent, it was the only act of memorial I saw that was built around the victims’ names en masse*. Looking back, I think seeing this is most likely what planted the seed of the idea of using the names in my project. I had seen individual names as parts of the huge public displays of grief, but this was where the scale of the attack really sunk in.

* EDIT: the Nice football team subsequently designed a commemorative shirt with the names of the victims formed into a heart:

OGC Nice football shirt design

Aside from the inclusion of names, the other thing I took from the public memorials was that I didn’t want to produce work that actually depicted these memorials themselves – I wanted to perform a kind of temporal shift to depict a future Nice where these memorials are no longer in sight but the victims are still being remembered.

Embedded text

Road safety campaign by Julian Calverley

I’ve been wracking my brains to come up with examples of where I’ve seen photographers manipulating images by introducing fake-but-realistic text into them. I’m sure I’ve seen projects like this (certainly advertising campaigns) but am really struggling to bring details of specific examples to mind… So I tried some research to come up with examples that I hadn’t seen before but illustrate that the concept isn’t entirely revolutionary. A fellow student suggested that some of Julian Calverley’s advertising work fits the description, although I think this is a little heavy-handed and I was looking for more subtle examples.

I did find Jenny Holzer’s 1990s Marquee images working in a similar visual style, but hers are examples of real-life text that she had placed there, then photographed – so a different execution, even if a similar outcome.

Times Square Marquee, 1993 by Jenny Holzer

Taking a sideways look at this, one of my acknowledged inspirations for this idea was the work of Charley Murrell in Constructed Childhoods (2010), in as much as that used the device of inserting a realistic element (albeit imagery not text) into a scene that on closer inspection is proven to be a composited construct to make a point.

from Constructed Childhoods, 2010 by Charley Murrell

This is the kind of thing that I’ve been calling ‘magic realism’ (a term borrowed from literature) in a photographic context.

Calendar design

The last context in which I position this work is that of calendar design. To me this is the least important context, as I see my main set of six images first and foremost as a self-contained art project, and a calendar as second priority to meet the brief. I am however aware that calendars do have their own visual vernacular that I should either follow or knowingly subvert.

In terms of photographic imagery, calendars – especially those pertaining to places – have a distinctive look. They are technically high quality, free of blemishes or other distracting elements, often feature quite bright and saturated colours and are generally aesthetically pleasing – an idealised depiction of the place being portrayed.

I did try to follow these norms, generally speaking.

In terms of layout, the predominant style for a wall calendar is that in which the image and the month data are the same size, as per examples below:

However, I wanted as much as possible to downplay the calendar aspect of the presentation and focus on the imagery. Also, the brief asks for one page to cover two months, which led to odd potential layouts bearing in mind I wanted to keep a standard (landscape) ratio for my images, as they are first and foremost ‘scenes’. Arbitrarily cropping to a non-standard ratio in order to fit in the month text wasn’t a viable option.

So I made the decision to deploy a reasonably unorthodox (but not totally unknown) design approach of having the dates run in a linear style rather than the more normal tabular one.


This was an instance therefore where I acknowledged the design norms of the medium but decided to deliberately avoid some of them in order to better achieve my communication objectives.


RFK Funeral Train (accessed 12/10/2016)

The Crowd (Je suis trop loin)…/assignment-5-the-crowd-je-suis-trop-loin (accessed 12/10/2016)

Sectarian Murder (accessed 12/10/2016)

Faces of Srebrenica (accessed 12/10/2016)

Julian Calverley (accessed 12/10/2016)

Constructed Childhoods (accessed 12/10/2016)

Jenny Holzer (accessed 14/12/2016)

Assignment 4: theme decision

After much thought, discussion with other students and finally some good old-fashioned mocking up images, I have arrived at a decision on the theme for the calendar assignment.

Yesterday I summarised the various ideas I’d shortlisted so far and my concerns with each of them.

Fellow student Stephanie made an excellent (and retrospectively obvious) suggestion that I should start mocking up executions for some of the ideas to see where that led me. A couple of other students suggested going with what was most personally interesting as this should be reflected in the final outcome. Three people specifically said that my proposal for the Nice calendar sounded worth pursuing as it was evidently something important to me.

To recap on what I wrote about the Nice idea yesterday:

The city of Nice has been my second home for about 15 years and I was quite affected when the Bastille Day attack happened, and again when I visited Nice recently and saw the memorials still covering parts of the city.

The concept was to produce a calendar with the twin aims of restoring the city’s tourist reputation and commemorating the 86 people who died in the attack. The idea was to produce classic scenes of Nice (beach, promenade, old town shutters etc) with the names of the victims subtly included in each image.

Pro: creative; area of passionate interest for me

Con: no real advertising techniques involved; tricky balance to achieve in terms of tone; if the secondary memorial message is too subtle, it’s just ‘pretty pictures’

I mocked up two images for this. Note you need to see the pictures large to see the secondary meaning, so click on one for an enlarged view.

The lightbulb moment came when I realised I was pondering whether the ‘cons’ of this idea were showstoppers or things that I could work around, justify or subvert – if I’m trying to diminish the downside, I’m talking myself into it! I wasn’t doing this for the other four ideas. This is the one that has ‘grabbed’ me.

I appreciate that it isn’t going to employ many of the ‘clever’ advertising techniques that I’ve admired in my recent research, but I’m OK with this. I harbour no desire to become an advertising photographer, so I feel justified in bending the brief slightly to align with what I want to do here.

Statement of intent

(first draft to send to my tutor)

The city of Nice has been my second home for about 15 years and I was quite affected when the Bastille Day attack happened, and again when I visited Nice recently and saw the memorials still covering parts of the city.

Two months on, the mood in the city is a delicate balance between grief, defiance and optimism; the city is simultaneously trying to rebuild its reputation as a tourist destination and honouring the 86 victims of the atrocity.

I gave myself the fictional brief to produce a calendar for the Nice Tourism Board with two overt objectives:

  • Restore Nice’s tourism reputation
    • By reminding people of how beautiful, friendly, welcoming and joyful Nice is
  • Honour, and raise funds in aid of the families of, the 86 victims
    •  By naming them in the images, in a discreet and respectful way

The communication objectives are in three ‘layers’:

  • First reaction: I want viewers to see aesthetically pleasing scenes (‘pretty pictures’)
  • Second reaction: then look closer and see the dedications inscribed in each image
  • Third reaction: I want there to be connoted meanings in the images, pertaining to emotional responses to the incident, e.g. loss, grief, defiance, optimism, peace, harmony, love etc

This does mean that getting the tone right will be extremely important, and a very delicate balance will need to be struck. I think it can be done.

Next steps

  • Email statement of intent to tutor
  • Sort through remaining images from trip to Nice earlier this month
  • Sort a follow-up trip if needed

Assignment 4: shortlisted ideas

Oh, Assignment 4…

I’ve had SO much trouble landing on an idea for this that I’m happy enough with. I still haven’t. I’ve been thinking of ideas since before I started the Advertising section but have pretty much fallen out with every idea I’ve had.

What I want to do here is to summarise my objectives, the various ideas I’ve had (pros and cons) and where that leaves me in terms of refining what I DO want to do the assignment on.


In summary, the objective of Assignment 4 is to produce seven images for a calendar (cover page plus 6x 2-months-per-page).

If I’m following the brief (and I usually do, though this is one of my problems…) then there are a few key criteria that should be met:

  • Client is ‘a company that I find interesting which creates a calendar product for a market that I can relate to’
  • With ‘past imagery’ that I can look at and decide its relevance to the current market
  • Calendar is creative and ‘does not revolve around featuring the product’
  • Must also include the company logo and strapline, if there is one

My objectives

I have developed a few key considerations for this that may to may not converge on one idea; I may need to prioritise between contradictory criteria.

  • I want be more creative than I have been in the first three assignments
    • I’m disappointed in my own work so far on this course, it’s a little pedestrian
    • If I’m not wowing myself, I don’t expect anyone else to be overly impressed…
    • So I want to be more visually experimental
  • I want to apply what I’ve learned on the Advertising section of the course
    • I’ve learned things in this section that I’ve found really fascinating – the authorial nature of advertising work, with such deep and well-defined ‘meanings’ embedded in advertising photos – it’s almost an art in itself (or maybe a science…)
    • I’m particularly keen on the notion of implicit messages – the ‘clever’ ads where the viewer has to make the connection between the image and the brand message – the effective use of visual language impresses me
    • I’ve looked at other students’ work and think that for the most part, people have unfortunately missed the opportunity to really apply this kind of knowledge (there are a lot of local cause / charity type calendars are perfectly pleasant but show limited use of visual advertising techniques)
  • I want the subject matter to be something that I am genuinely interested in
    • And I’m trying to think about this as widely as possible!

Ideas so far

I’ve had several ideas that have stuck around for various lengths of time before I rejected them, and it’s in the rejection reasons that I’ve been refining the criteria above. So some of these are closer to being ‘right’ than others (but to repeat: I’m not fully happy with any of them!). In order of when they occurred to me:

1. Rob Townsend Photography

My initial idea was to go all off-piste and instead of doing it on an existing brand, to do it on my (so far imaginary) photography business. I was planning to use it as a showcase for some creative imagery of my own choosing

The visual twist was to be that the calendar text (i.e. month name, days, dates) would be incorporated into the images in-camera, e.g. written in pen on someone’s skin, printed on a t-shirt, on a wall as graffiti, etc.

Pro: creative/experimental; passes the (self-)interest test

Con: ignores large parts of the brief (almost all of it); self-indulgent; kind of cheating

2. Waterstones

Or any bookseller, to be fair. – the concept is really based around reading books and I needed a brand to hang it off.

The idea was close-ups of people holding books (hardback, no dust cover, so can’t tell what the book is), with drawings on their fingers that allude to the title/contents of the book they are reading – so it’s a kind of visual puzzle. The significance of using the fingers is to connote the physical feel of reading a real book rather than an e-book.

Pro: creative; uses some visual advertising techniques; I am interested in books; I like the ‘visual puzzle’ aspect

Con: I’m not sure I can think of enough different executions!

3. Five a Day

For a while I thought a social cause would be more interesting than a company, so I was brainstorming around healthy eating and in particular the advice to eat five portions of fruit and veg a day.

The pitch was that you should ‘reach out for your five a day’ and I planned to set up shots where a piece of fruit or veg would replace a common object that a person was reaching for (e.g. banana for a door handle, a strawberry for a light pull, carrot slices for coins, etc).

Pro: reasonably creative, visually; applies advertising techniques

Con: I realised that it’s VERY similar to my Assignment 2 concept, which also featured food surreally inserted into everyday scenes – so too much self-plagiarism

4. Nice Memorial

The city of Nice has been my second home for about 15 years and I was quite affected when the Bastille Day attack happened, and again when I visited Nice recently and saw the memorials still covering parts of the city.

The concept was to produce a calendar with the twin aims of restoring the city’s tourist reputation and commemorating the 86 people who died in the attack. The idea was to produce classic scenes of Nice (beach, promenade, old town shutters etc) with the names of the victims subtly included in each image.

Pro: creative; area of passionate interest for me

Con: no real advertising techniques involved; tricky balance to achieve in terms of tone; if the secondary memorial message is too subtle, it’s just ‘pretty pictures’

5. Leica

I went full circle back to the brief to think about what brands I am particularly invested in. I narrowed it down to Apple and Leica, then rejected the former as it has such a distinctive and long-standing minimalist aesthetic that they are just too well-known. So I settled on Leica.

I intended to produce a set of images that depict the kind of photos one might take with a Leica (street, portrait, photojournalism, abstract etc) and that each one would have a red dot somewhere in the image (red dot denoting the Leica logo). Secondarily, I wanted the content of the images to connote Leica brand values, such as precision, heritage, quality etc.

Pro: fits the brief well; uses advertising techniques; allows me to be creative with the images themselves (very meta)

Con: I’d need to capture or create seven really great images that would do the brand justice, and I’m unsure of my ability to do this in the short time available! and it’s not quite as ‘clever’ as I’d like…

Next steps

I’m still looking for a better idea than any of these five, in particular an idea that lends itself to implicit messaging, my current fascination.

In the meantime, I might throw this out to other students for comment, and/or send this list to my tutor for any feedback and direction…

Research point: Contemporary awareness 4

As directed, I have looked at a range of contemporary advertising photographers, and have picked out half a dozen that I felt were noteworthy.

Looking at advertising photographers is interesting in as much as it’s not always clear how much to credit the creativity of the photographer for the end result. Is it more the concept of a genius creative director, adequately executed by an able photographer? Or is the look of the ad as important as the concept? Or did the photographer contribute to the concept as well as the visual execution? One can draw some conclusions if enough of a photographer’s work is available to see – a consistently engaging visual style, regardless of commissioning agency or brand, is a good sign.

A few words on the ones I didn’t write about in detail, and why. Some had little or no advertising work in their online portfolio. Some were straight product photographers more than advertising photographer. Some had some really interesting non-advertising work in their portfolio but quite pedestrian advertising work. Some had unforgivably bad web sites. Some just didn’t stand out in any way so I moved on.

Final observation: compared to the other genres I’ve been looking at on this course, advertising is very male-dominated…

James Day

As well as working on lots of very clever campaigns (re my point on conceptual credit in the intro), Day has a distinctive and pleasing visual style. He errs towards very clean, light, often pastel-hued backgrounds.

James Day

His work is a mix of good quality explicit messages and the cleverer implicit work that I find more interesting. He is good at either creating or interpreting the underpinning ideas that make implicit messages work successfully, such as the ‘packed with extras’ VW Golf sinking into the studio floor.

Andy Green

Green works more outdoors, though there is clearly a significant amount of lighting and post-processing used to get the looks he achieves. Some of his work is a little too artificial-looking for me – the kind of shots where I notice the over-processing before anything else, though maybe the aesthetic is intentional.

He produces some visually interesting, often witty, images – but rather maddeningly his portfolio doesn’t state who his clients are, so it’s difficult to judge the success or relevance of the images to the client’s product or brief!

John Lamb

Lamb produces high quality, stylised imagery. His ‘special effects’ work in particular is interesting.

This is the kind of work that I admire but have no real desire to emulate. The bulk of the work to produce such images will be done on a computer rather than with a camera. These are images that are visually striking but not necessarily conceptually interesting.

Peter Lippmann

Lippmann has an distinctive portfolio in that he very clearly delineates his commercial work from his fine art work, while others seem to blend them a little more. Much of Lippmann’s work is editorial rather than advertising, but theres enough overlap in terms of the visual language and intent, especially in the luxury goods markets that he tends to work in.

His is a rich, opulent style that suits the brands that he mainly works with. Now and again he takes on a more everyday commission like the Mikado chocolate one, and the execution is more light-hearted and reasonably witty.

George Logan

Logan is a photographer with a distinctive style in terms of the content of his images: very outdoorsy, often involving wild animals. He’s applied this approach to a number of disparate brands and concepts. It’s only when you see his body of work together that you see the pattern.

George Logan

He stood out as a great example of someone who specialises in a content type, which could be vey commercially-savvy. If you know you want a wild animal in your campaign, who you gonna call…?

Dan Tobin Smith

I really liked his work, probably most out of all these recommendations. He works in a more formal graphical (sometimes verging on abstract) way than the others. He finds ways of seeing products in interesting ways, using shapes, colours, lines, patterns.

His work appeals to me not just for the pure visual cleverness, but for the way it helps to get across brand messages using semiotics. They are more subtle than the deliberately ‘clever’ implicit ad; they’re more about lending an atmosphere or characteristics to the brand via the visual language, rather than getting across a feature/benefit message.


James Day (accessed 14/09/2016)

Andy Green (accessed 14/09/2016)

John Lamb (accessed 14/09/2016)

Peter Lippmann (accessed 14/09/2016)

George Logan (accessed 14/09/2016)

Dan Tobin Smith (accessed 14/09/2016)

Arles 2016, pt 2: the exhibitions

I’ve done a post on my overall observations on my first visit to Les Rencontres de la Photographie in Arles. This post is to cover the individual exhibitions I saw.

The festival is grouped under a number of headings: a mixture of genre, subject matter and arbitrary miscellany. I will use these categories for ease of organising my thoughts.

This is going to be pretty long. Once I started writing I couldn’t stop. Put the kettle on.

If you want to skim to my highlights, these are titled in red text.

Discovery Award

Premise: five eminent photography figures nominate two up-and-coming artists each. I saw this in a group with four other people, and we agreed to view all the entrants’ works and then compare notes, including individually ranking the best three and the worst one of the ten projects on display…

Frank Berger

I confess I wrote this one off quickly and didn’t give it long enough to ‘get’ the underlying narrative at first. On re-watching, having had the premise explained by someone more patient, it made more sense. He photographed lorries entering and leaving an industrial abattoir over a period of years, and the (extremely banal) images are presented sequentially in a slide projection. The reality of what you are seeing unfolds slowly. Maybe I should be a little more patient and forgiving with seemingly uninteresting art? Or is the onus on the artist to engage the viewer with strong imagery first? Discuss.

Stephanie Kiwitt

Black and white, fragmentary street photography with a few underlying themes – absence, emptiness, consumerism. Some of the images are presented as split images with white space in between, in box frames placed on the floor. I found myself thinking about the connections between images, not always to the point of resolution. I liked this series more than my fellow exhibition-goers did, and rated it as my ‘bronze’ award of the set.

Stephanie Kiwitt’s Maj/My

Basma Alsharif

This was a combination of video, appropriated images and a wall-sized room replica – and it did nothing for me, I’m afraid. We must not have been on the same wavelength.

Daisuke Yokota

Yokota exposes rolls of photographic paper to light, creating abstract patterns that sometimes resemble dreamy landscapes. The presentation method was quite distinctive – long rolls suspended from above, seemingly to resemble a waterfall. Unfortunately it also reminded me of a wallpaper display. A vaguely interesting curio.

Marie Angeletti

Like Kiwitt, quite disparate and fragmentary in subject matter, but employing a strong colour aesthetic. There’s a sense of narrativity to her images but any story is usually opaque and implied, leaving the viewer to fill in most of the details. She uses masks a lot, suggesting that identity is one of her interests. There’s a surreal and dark ‘Twin Peaks‘-y feel to many of her images. I like the way she sees the world. I voted this my ‘silver’ pick (no-one else agreed).

Marie Angeletti

Christodolous Panayiotou

Four small photos (three of underground pipes, one of flowers) and three urban water features. Unanimously voted the ‘merde’ prize by all five of us. Balls of steel to be given a huge stand at Arles and do this with it.

Nader Adem

A study of people with disabilities in Addis Ababa. He has a good eye for simple, human moments, and captures his subjects without patronising them. One could question why such a (good but) straightforward documentary project was nominated for the Discovery Award, surrounded by more conceptual work – maybe it is recognising that places such as Ethiopia don’t have the same photographic history as other countries, and in that context it is progressive work.

Sarah Waiswa

My ‘gold’ pick for this set (we all agreed on this one) and also one of my highlights of the whole festival, so I go into more detail. And it deservedly won the overall Discovery Award. The series Stranger in a Familiar Land is a set of staged images of albinoism in Africa. The sole model is striking enough for the lightness of her skin, let alone her beautiful intricate purple hair braids. Posing her in the backdrop of Kibera slums makes her stand out even more than usual, giving a dreamlike quality to the images. The presentation made this project even more engaging: each photo was framed alongside a physical artefact; the viewer must navigate between the photo, the artefact and the title to interpret the image. A masterful series.

from Stranger in a Familiar Land, Sarah Waiswa

Beni Bischof

Garish, pseudo-surreal, self-consciously wacky photoshoppery. Not my cup of earl grey.

Sara Cwynar

More photo-illustration art than photography really. Much use of appropriated imagery to build kitsch collages about the passing of time. I found the presentation of one half of the exhibit – images laid out in a consecutive horizontal line – more interesting than the individual images; it reminded me of Martin Parr’s Common Sense installation.

Sara Cwynar


Sid Grossman

I hadn’t heard of Grossman (active in the US from the 1930s to the 1950s) but I liked much of his work, especially his later period when he got more expressionistic and abstract. There’s an inherent historical interest in a lot of the work, though, and one needs to look past that to get to the ‘so what?’ of his work (he reminded of Vivian Maier in that regard). A handful of his images are exemplary though – in particular I loved ‘Pants Store’.

Pants Store, Sid Grossman

Ethan Levitas / Gary Winogrand

This paired the contemporary New York street work of Levitas with iconic 1960s images of Winogrand. It’s a bold gambit to invite comparisons with a great like this, and I don’t believe Levitas pulls it off. His work is more contrived, more distant than Winogrand’s. The Levitas work gets displayed here better than Winogrand’s though, which is presented as blown-up contact sheets. The dissonance between the two parts of the show is bewildering. I found myself wondering how and why this pairing came about. Odd.

Peter Mitchell

I was really looking forward to this, but felt oddly let down by the presentation. It’s an exact re-staging of the 1979 show A New Refutation of the Viking 4 Space Mission, which used as its conceit that aliens had been studying Earth in the same way as we’d been studying Mars. Photos of urban Yorkshire and London scenes are presented in ‘space chart’ frames. My assumption is that Mitchell wanted to emphasise the ‘otherness’ of the scenes being depicted. The problem is that in this re-presentation 37 years later, no such device is needed as the passage of time is enough to make this an ‘alien’ world. The extra-terrestrial conceit just distracts now. A missed opportunity for re-contextualisation I think.

from A New Refutation of the Viking 4 Space Mission, Peter Mitchell

Eamonn Doyle

My undoubted highlight of the whole trip. In fact, the one purchase I made out of the Arles trip, aside from the catalogue, was Doyle’s End. The presentation is awe-inspiring. A combination of colour images in grids, wall-sized b/w prints, colour-washed posters, graphic illustrations – it’s a multi-media, multi-format extravaganza.

But none of that would matter if the images didn’t work. Doyle’s trilogy of Dublin works over the last three years (i, ON, End) have brought a poetic, expressionistic form of street photography, and given a sense of place like none I experienced from any other photographer at Arles.

Monsters & Co

The one part of this segment that I really wanted to see was Charles Fréger’s Yokainoshima, but unfortunately it had closed the day before I got to Arles…

Scary Monsters!

This is a compilation of images of monsters of various sorts in cinema. It’s a fairly pedestrian theme for a photography festival in my opinion, and horror/sci-fi aren’t my favourite movie genres, so I didn’t hang around long enough to discern any deeper meaning in this one.


This is a collaboration between three Danish photojournalists – Sara Galbiati, Peter Helles Eriksen and Tobias Selves Markussen – and looks at the phenomenon of UFO enthusiasts. It’s a surprisingly sympathetic depiction that avoids mockery. It contains lots of individually strong images and also works as a cohesive overall set, despite the shared authorship. It’s a low-key, quite sweet set that is as much about faith as it is about aliens.

Africa Pop

Only two of these three shows were still open by the time I got to Arles.

Swinging Bamako

Part retrospective, part contemporary catchup, this looks at the Mali pop music scene in the 1960s. Much of the interest in the first part is the historic context – all black and white photos from five decades ago are worth a look. I found more to see in Karen Paulina Biswell’s smaller set of contemporary pictures catching up on the band members. This show did also give me the earworm of the trip, the impossibly catchy ‘Rendezvous Chez Fatimata‘!

Tear My Bra

An eclectic celebration of Nollywood, the Nigerian film industry. Some of it was visually striking, like the the Godfather pastiche and the recreations of iconic Hollywood scenes. However, these two sections were also the most derivative and timid of the lot, as they leant heavily on the audience’s knowledge of existing Hollywood tropes. Maybe Nollywood hasn’t yet defined itself enough of a distinct identity – that’s what came through in these images anyway.

Platforms of the Visible

An odd title for what the programme describes as a look at “Investigation as a photographic topic and the photographer as a detective combing through photo archives”.

Laia Abril

This project A History of Misogny, Chapter One: On Abortion is a powerful series, and one which I have picked out as one of my highlights, but perhaps oddly not for the photographic content. The subject of abortion and its effects on women who have them, particularly the dangers in the many countries where it is illegal, is not easy to depict photographically without being gruesome. The images here are portraits with testimonies, photos of artefacts such as surgical instruments, biological diagrams. Without the accompanying text they may not mean as much. However, the two exhibits that had the most visceral effect on me weren’t photographs but physical installations: a surgical chair with stirrups, and a pile of wire coat hangers. These two objects spoke more about the experience and dangers of abortion than the images.

Stéphanie Solinas

I probably didn’t give this the attention it deserved as the premise didn’t grab my attention. It’s a varied examination of a particular building on the outskirts of Arles, meditating on concepts such as memory, identity, passing time. What I saw of it I found quite clinical and lacking in any emotive connection. But as I say, maybe I didn’t give it a chance (it was one of the shows that I rattled through on day three…)

After War

I missed the Don McCullin show by a day, but having looked through the catalogue it features many of the images I saw at his Photo London show in May, so I’m not too concerned.

Yan Morvan

This is a set of 80 images of battlefields long after the battles. I find this genre of (very late) aftermath photography quite curious: without the context of the historic warfare these are perfectly ‘nice’ landscapes; it is only when one understands what had happened in the years before that they acquire gravitas. The significance from reading the caption triggers a re-evaluation of the image. One finds oneself searching the photo for ‘clues’ as to what happened there, but of course in most of them there are none, so it becomes largely a work of triggered imagination. Part of me finds this genre of photography a kind of manipulative mind trickery…

Nothing But Blue Skies

This, a compilation of media and art responses to the 9/11 attacks in 2001, is a mixed bag for sure, but on balance I felt more of it worked than didn’t. The first part is a recap of how the attacks were reported at the time – a room covered floor-to-ceiling with newspaper front pages, and a smaller room made entirely of old TVs looping through rolling news footage. Both are quite an assault on the eyeballs and the mind. Only after sifting through the imagery does one start to appreciate the nuances of how different nations and outlets reported the events.

The second half is made of artistic responses to the attacks and aftermath. One piece that I found particularly engaging was Just Like the Movies by Michal Kosakowski. It’s a skilfully edited compilation of clips from Hollywood blockbusters that recreate the narrative of the attacks on the twin towers. I got a bit of a Debord/Baudrillard vibe from watching fictional footage standing in for a real event – the sense that despite describing the events as shocking and unprecedented, we had in fact pictured and rehearsed such events already as entertainment. The other takeaway from this is that it has slightly reset my previously dogmatic stance that documentary must show things that really happened – it turns out that you can present a documentary ‘truth’ using only fictional material.

I am Writing to you from a Far Off Country

Yann Gross

This expansive and beautifully presented exhibition, The Jungle Show, takes a trip along the Amazon. Rather than employing a straight documentary photography approach, however, Gross stages scenes that give an impression of the people and the locale. He captures facets of Amazonian lives in an artistic, expressive yet non-condescending way.

PJ Harvey & Seamus Murphy

The Hollow of the Hand is a poetry-photography-video collaboration based on the duo’s travels through Kosovo, Afghanistan and Washington DC (this last seems out of place, but it hangs together better than you might imagine). It’s a looping video installation that alternates between fragments of film footage with slideshows of Murphy’s photos with Harvey reading her poems over the top. The overall result is suitably ambiguous in terms of narrativity yet gets across lingering impressions of the places filmed. Once strange sensation I had watching it was that I found Murphy’s short film clips to be like moving photographs, in terms of composition and aesthetic – I found myself mentally freeze-framing when I saw the ‘decisive moment’ in each clip.


Fabulous Failures

The title of this group show is somewhat disingenuous, as few of these are ‘failures’, more deliberate attempts to subvert photographic norms. It’s a very entertaining collection of surreal, playful and downright silly visual experiments. It wasn’t what you’d call profound, but I enjoyed it a lot.


Where the Other Rests

This group show is all about appropriation, as subject I am a little ambivalent about. I get that one can create a ‘dialogue’ with pre-existing imagery and make new pieces of art that carry a different message, but I found a lot of the work on show here to be uninspiring and lacking in originality. As noted elsewhere, I find some appropriation to be too self-referential and insular – photography about photography.

The one piece that I did admire here was Broomberg & Chanarin’s Afterlife, which took an image of a Kurdish firing squad execution and deconstructed it, isolating figures from the background and mounting the photo fragments on multiple glass plates – like a collage where none of the pieces touch. I found this detailed dissection of a photograph brought its meaning closer to the surface, in a strange way.

Bloomberg & Chanarin, 'Afterlife 8', from Where the Other Rests
Bloomberg & Chanarin, ‘Afterlife 8’, from Where the Other Rests


Themed archival collections.

Sincerely Queer

A look at the hitherto hidden world of 19th and early 20th century LGBTQI amateur photography. Gender fluidity and cross-dressing in particular has an enormously rich visual history, but for various reasons the images have been kept private. Sébastien Lifshitz has collected and curated a wide-ranging and fascinating alternative history, proving that the accepted version of society’s history always leaves things out.

Lady Liberty

An interesting enough visual summary of the construction of the Statue of Liberty. Not sure there’s enough there to justify it being part of a major photographic festival though.

Hara Kiri Photo

The visual archives of the satirical French magazine (kind of Charlie Hebdo forerunner?). What you could get away with showing on newsstands in France in the 1960s and 1970s is mind-boggling. Out of the context of the time these images just look variously surreal, profane, pornographic and grotesque. A prurient curiosity.

Outside the Frame

The Cardboard Museum

A self-consciously wacky funhouse-style installation with various rooms containing surreal images and objects in. Like a class of sixth-form art students had been let loose. It would have been a nice lightweight palate-cleanser if I’d visited it halfway through the more serious works in the Parc des Ateliers, but as it happened it was the first thing I saw, and I was simply bemused. It did include the pic below though, that made me laugh.

from The Cardboard Museum


This section picks out emerging talents.

An Unusual Attention

The work of three graduates from ENSP (the Arles photography school). Guillaume Delleuse was the only one to make an impression. His gritty, sexually-charged black and white urban photography reminded me of Anders Petersen and Jacob Aue Sobol. Clémentine Roche’s repetitive (found?) street scenes and Vincent Marcq’s deconstructed house didn’t do much for me.

Associated Programme

Systematically Open?

Subtitled New Forms for Contemporary Image Production, this was put together by the LUMA Foundation in Arles. It featured four exhibitions, only one of which was particularly good in my opinion.

Curated by Walead Beshty, Picture Industry is described as “an array of images whose formats reveal the complex and evolving relationship between the photographic medium and its many modes of distribution“. The bare thread that connects these eclectic images is that they were originally presented in different visual formats. So we get prints, slideshows, video installations, 70s porn mag spreads etc. I presume the point is to highlight how images are (at least in part) interpreted based on the distribution channel and/or physicality.

Elad Lassry apparently wants to investigate “what kinds of engagement are possible with pictures“. For reasons best known to himself, he felt the best way to do this was to display large, colourful pictures of dental procedures. Gruesome and fairly pointless.

Collier Schorr curated a collaboration with his near-namesake Anne Collier, but unfortunately I found little of interest in the collection of nudes, self portraits and porn pastiches. Supposedly about “exposed subjects [who] are frequently framed by the formats of the medium itself“, it came across as very self-indulgent.

Photographer and activist Zanele Muholi provided the one highlight of this section. Her ongoing series Somnyama Ngonyama is a set of stark, dark self-portraits in various states of costume and make-up, often based around her hair – a key cultural signifier for African women. Each portrait is visually dominated by the strong contrast between the darkness of her skin and the whiteness of her eyes. Her gaze into the lens is penetrating. Striking is an understatement.

from Somnyama Ngonyama, Zanele Muholi

That’s me done!