Assignment 2 Feedback, Reflection and Rework


I was very pleased with the feedback for this assignment. There was a helpful balance of positive comments mixed with constructive critique. I code all my written feedback using highlighter pens in order to maximise the learning from tutor comments and also to inform the rework of the assignment. This has come a bit of a habit, but as a distance learner working in a degree of solitude I try to eek out all that I can from the written feedback.

Strengths are highlighted in green, areas for development in pink and follow up suggestions are highlighted in yellow. The feedback for this assignment confirmed that there was good development in conceptual thinking, a sense of narrative with some continuity and some good images. There was a good level of technical ability also demonstrated.

This was tempered with very helpful critique suggesting that some of the images did’t meet the ambition of the project. Also my thinking was not singularly defined enough leading to some ambiguity in reading what the work was ultimately about. I have stated before that I am on a journey and I am refining my technique as I go, but achieving my intent in work is still illusive. But, there is much learning on the way and in many respects the constructive critical feedback is more valuable as a learning aid than the positive comments. I also recognised and understood the criticism  about some of the images , particularly the cluttered ones where my message was not clearly enough defined. This was a very personal project and making it accessible to a wider audience isn’t easy, nor should it be really. At the risk of sounding trite any one could do it if it were easy!

This work was in many respects very emotional and personal, particularly for my wife. For this reason I feel it is important to rework some of the images in order to fulfil the goal I set out to achieve , capturing love and cherished memory in the objects left behind by someone close who is no longer with us.

My response to Tutor feedback

Dear Matthew,

Many thanks for your helpful feedback for Assignment 2. It was a very personal interpretation of the brief and your feedback is helpful in identifying the strengths and limitations of the work. Your question about the purpose of the work proved to be particularly helpful in raising what should have been an obvious point for me to consider. In many respects I saw the work as a response to the brief, but recognise I need to make work that transcends the idea of the brief and stands out in its own right. With hindsight the work is about presence and this needs to stand out more. I was pleased that you liked the final images in the set. Interestingly these were also images I made towards the end of schedule. I think ideas and themes developed through the process of making the work may be the most interesting, more so than those the planning stage.

Taking on board your feedback about the clutter in some of the images, which I agree with, I am going to re do the exercise in advance assessment. I want to explore the idea of a juxtaposition of the living with the objects that are in the images. I will also look at some references about still life photography. I was very interested in your comments about Vanitas objects. I have done quite a bit of reading about this over the past few days. I have looked at some interesting on-line discussions about the work of Steenwyck.

Many thanks for the references, I really enjoyed the Avedon and the Richon in particular

This was a good assignment from a learning point of view and I recognises that I still have further work to do.

Thank you for the comments about the blog. It is a work in progress and there are still some items that are not displaying. Mainly write ups to exhibitions and study visits. I thoroughly enjoyed and felt quite enlighted by my visist to the Conceptual Art show at Tate Britain. I am going to set aside some time to try and get to grips with my WordPress woes!

I will press on with the next part of the course and am today starting the diary in advance of assignment 3 I thought it might be good to do it for longer than 2 weeks.

Many thanks again for your helpful feedback, it is exactly what I need.

Best wishes


Overall I was pleased however that my tutor felt this was a good attempt at a complex piece of work. I was left with the clear sense of the strengths and the areas I need to work on. The full feedback can be read here: j-o-tutor-report-2

My tutor also suggested I should look at further work around still life photography and supplied some helpful links which I followed up on.

I was intrigued by the notion of the vanitas object, a feature in dutch school painting

Objects featured in artwork are a well known area of discussion and thought and the vanitas works of the dutch school are perhaps some of the best known. I first came across the idea while reading Berger’s: Ways of Seeing. He talks about painting becoming a mechanism for the display of wealth and power during the Renaissance.

The gospel quote below shed some light on the idea of objects and vanity


“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

Matthew 6:18-21

Olivier Richon suggests:

–“ a re-interpretation of the still life genre and a reflection on the object as sign. He uses a large format camera to quote genres and other images, also using animals as a recurrent subject that complements the stillness of objects. The camera is commonly a metaphor for the eye. Richon proposes that the camera is also a metaphor for the mouth: a devouring eye or a drinking eye that absorbs its subject to turn it into an image. Here photographic practice is located within a contemporary notion of allegory that considers the images as a script and a rebus, where meaning and signs are accumulated, in the same manner as objects are represented as an accumulation of signs in the Flemish still life.”

From this quote I began to explore two key areas in the reworking of this assignment. The first was the notion of images as a script or more significantly a Rebus. I also spent some time looking at Flemish painting and the idea of ‘Vanitas’ symbols.

Following up on a reference made in the written feedback I read the 1974 article from Camera Magazine by Richard Alvedon – ‘Jacob Isreal Avedon- (1974). In this brief article Alvedon reflects on photographing his father in the final years of his life. Avedon was impolying all his skills as a prriat photographer who in essence worked with strangers to record a subject with whom he had a deep relationship. I was struck by a particular line in the article in reference to the final images:

They exist on their own. Whatever happened between us was important to us, but it is not important to the pictures. What is in them is self-contained and, in some strange way, free of us both.

This quote was important in my reflections about my assignment and what i was trying to achieve in the images I made. The essence of the images and their content was highly personally an at odds to the idea Alvedon sets out above. This helped me anchor what I wanted the set of images to say, it helped me unpack some of the confusion evident in the work as suggested in my tutors comments. In the feedback my tutor posed the question any viewer would ask:

….what is the purpose of the work? Is it a celebration of a life, an account of a life, a critique of a life or an evaluation of a life?

For me I wanted the work to be a celebration of life, a statement about objects in the present that say something about an important life that still has influence although now gone. I was also helped by the critique of the individual images. One was singled out as offering a different way of developing the theme. With reference to the image below the feedback suggested:

I particularly like the image of the picture and the figure in the background that creates a certain ambiguity. This image suggest to me that perhaps there was another way to interpret this brief through the relationship between the objects and at the point that they come in contact with the living.


This set me thinking about how I might combine some of the compositional ideas i had looked at in the flemish painting and the notions of objects at the point they come into contact with the living. Based upon this idea I made a number of new images, in which the Vanitas, the Moment Mori are seen in the same context as the living. This was much more exploratory and to some extent more of a risk than the original set of images.

The set uses some of the original images but removes some of the very cluttered one and actively superimposes the living in the same scene as the objects that are at the heart of the theme.

The works remains very personal and i am struck by the paradox that it is very hard to be objective about a work that is so unashamedly subjective. For the images to work they need to strike a connection with the vower who may also hold certain personal object dear from deputed family member sand relatives. Indeed this is at the heart of the idea of vanities object. in the end object outlive their owners and a vanities object does not have to be as brash as a skull, a candle, a clock to make the point about the passage of time and the temporal nature of life. To me and in this work, the binoculars seen on both the first and third images (they are the same pair) fulfil the same symbolic function

I am uncertain as to whether the final set works, but it does get closer to the sense of a celebration of someones life and the part they play in the current lives of their loved ones.

Reworked Image Set








Avedon, R. (1974) ‘Jacob Isreal Avedon’ Camera Magazine November 1974 , found at: (Accessed December 2016)

Harman Steenwyck – Vanitas Still life Painting

Momento Mori Defintion, found at : (Accessed December 2016)

Arkette, S. (2009)

Assignment 2 Submission

Photographing the unseen

Start by doing some reflecting in your learning log. What kinds of subjects might be seen as un-photographable? How might you go about portraying them using photography? List a few examples of things you’re experiencing now or have recently been thinking about. This doesn’t have to be too in-depth or revealing, but it can be if you want. Equally, it might be something as apparently trivial as how you’re going to fit everything into your busy day. At first you may come up with literal examples, but the more you think about them the more those ideas will develop into specific and more original ones.

Make a list of at least seven ideas. Try and keep to things you have a personal interest in or curiosity about. Keep a notebook with you at all times and make notes when ideas strike you as interesting. (This is good practice for all stages of the degree and beyond. Ideas books are something to be revisited time and again for ideas and hints for the photographer you’re becoming.)

Now implement one of your ideas. Aim for a tightly edited and visually consistent series of 7–10 images.

Love in the inanimate

‘Accidental death verdict on man who stepped into road’

Brian Robertshaw, 72, a retired market grocer who lived on Scatcherd Lane, was attempting to cross Bruntcliffe Road at 2.30pm on February 25, when he was hit by the 7.5 tonne van. He was taken to Leeds General Infirmary with serious injuries but died five hours later. Recording a verdict of accidental death, Coroner David Hinchliff passed on his personal and belated condolences to Mr Robertshaw’s family.

Morley Observer and Advertiser 

22nd September 2004


















Context, Preparation and Completion

As mentioned in my blog entry which can be found here: this was a very personal theme to explore. Particularly so I thought for my wife and I didn’t initially discuss it with her until I had made some of the first images. I wanted to see if the project would work before I talked it through with her. When I did discuss it she was comfortable with what I was doing and was supportive of me undertaking this as Assignment 2.

In the spring of 2004 my wife’s father was killed in a road accident. It is painful to lose a parent, but the circumstances of Brian’s death made the loss all the more devastating.

My wife’s parents had divorced in difficult circumstances some years before. There had always been a close father and daughter bond, but the divorce, in which my wife very much sided with her father, strengthened their relationship.

Brian lived alone and his house contained a considerable amount of personal possessions, gathered over a lifetime of interests and activity. His son, my wife’s brother, wanted none of the contents of his house and following his death much went to charity or to an auction house. There were however some personal effects that my wife wanted understandably to keep and we brought these back to our home. All were artefacts that said something about him as a man. Items from the grocers shop he owned and ran for many years, other objects reflected his rich range of interests. A keen birdwatcher all his life he inspired the same interest in his daughter. He was a keen and accomplished musician, a pianist and organist as well as singing as a tenor in the Leeds Festival Chorus with whom he made many recordings and television appearances. He had very many books of which we retained a few poignant examples that had been important to him. He had also sailed in small and large boats in seas near and far. All were elements of his life that are present today in our home in some measure. Almost like an echo of his past in our present.

This disparate collection of ‘things’ have become part of the fabric of our living environment and have gone from being sad reminders of a tragic loss to a positive reminder of his presence in our lives. These objects sit as fixed items in our home and attest to who he was, but more importantly the love for him that exists beyond his passing.

When creating this work, I was very mindful of Stephanie D’Hubert work referenced in the course materials and her reflections on the presence and absence of her mother. There are parallels to this work in my assignment, although I believe my work is fundamentally different. Notably, that for my wife, myself and our daughter, the presence of his possessions has now come to affirm that his presence continues with us. The sense of loss has waned over the years and although still missed there is a love exemplified by a range of inanimate artefacts. This is in contrast to D’Hubert’s sense of loss and absence in her poignant but I think melancholy work.

At the recent OCA symposium: New Pastoral Paradigms-Explorations in Landscape and Self, held in Sheffield, I had a chance to see and hear about John Umney’s work: ‘I Look for Him’, which is an exploration of the artist’s relationship with and memory of his father.

Although a very different and altogether darker relationship with his father, Umney’s description of how he arrived at his finished work was thoroughly engaging and set me thinking about the potential for revealing the unseen in the inanimate. Both Umney and D’Hubert used staged objects to record their ‘unseen’. Umney even spent time with a museum photographer to learn about object placement, position, background and lighting. It was while reflecting on this that my real idea and theme for this assignment came.

The unseen I allude to in this work is not just about the objects, indeed it isn’t the objects in and themselves. Their location in our home is as much about the idea as the artifact itself. The unseen exists in the ideas and thoughts about those objects and their location in our home simultaneously. The exception is perhaps the second image in the set, the binocular and book, because these things are not fixed in location because my wife uses them almost every day. The idea of the unseen in most of the images is however is about the object, its location and the thoughts and memories that are evoked.

Technical Information

All of the images were made using a crop sensor camera (1.5x crop factor) and one of two prime focus lenses. The majority were made with 60mm lens (equating to 90mm on a full Frame camera). A small number were made with a 35mm lens (equating to 53mm on a full frame camera). I chose to use these focal lengths because I wanted to avoid any sense of distortion, I tried to create a ‘visitor in our home’ viewpoint. The images were recorded as RAW files, processed in Lightroom then converted to Jpegs, 1500 pixels on the long side and in Adobe (RGB) colour space. A second set was made ready for sending to a commercial printer as TIFF Files in sRGB colour space and the file size specified by the commercial printer. I used natural light for all the images although weather did not always co-operate. To manage light, I used two separate large silver reflectors to direct natural light and create an even illumination. Placing the reflectors was dictated by a range of light meter readings with a hand held meter and some examination of test image histograms to manage shadows and highlights. More than 250 images were made and successive editing reduced them to the final set. I also left some thinking gaps between making and editing the work.


Demonstration of technical and visual skills

The images are well lit and exposed and I used a range of photographic controls to achieve the finished work. As mentioned controlling natural light was an issue and I believe I have created some appropriately lit and balanced colour images. I did this without the use of artificial light or flash. I was keen to retain the sense of natural light in our home. As mentioned above I used silver reflectors to direct and illuminate subject in the scenes. I sought to produce satisfying compositional elements within the parameters of the creative impression I was trying to achieve. I wanted to create a sense of the viewer being in our home environment and I think to a fair degree I achieved this. Composition of the images is simple and I think clean. As I look at the final set though there are some I would revisit if time had permitted. Most notably the 4th which with hindsight is too cluttered. I am also uncertain about the final image but will consider in the light of feedback.


Quality of outcome

The final selection of images I believe demonstrate a degree of technical competence in terms of composition, lighting and colour. Unlike my first assignment I had much greater control in this set of essentially still life studies. It was only the changing quality of the daylight I needed to manage. Although these images were made digitally, I am predominantly a film photographer in my personal work and I use my hand held meter for spot and incident metering with a measure of competence. There is a narrative to the set, but and it is a big but, I remain uncertain about how transparent this is to the viewer, not least because the real quality of the outcome is as much about the thoughts the work evokes rather than what is contained within the frame of each image. For this reason, I retain some uncertainty about the final outcome or impact of this work. Self-doubt runs deep!

Demonstration of creativity

This is the hardest element to self-assess. I worked on this theme over several months and the final images for better or worse are the outcome of a creative reflection around the theme. The challenge is that the images do have personal meaning for me and more particularly my wife. There is a narrative to the images and their order, but they need some description perhaps?

The title of the work, ‘Love in the Inanimate’, followed by the extract from the newspaper about Brian’s death is an attempt to set the context of the work. The first image of the old and now faded canvas of father and daughter taken on a long since passed birdwatching excursion is intended to anchor and make human the subject. The second image, of Brian’s binoculars, the same ones seen in the canvas within the first image, are a permanent presence on our dining table, in a kitchen that looks out over our rural garden. Brian’s faded and scribbled in bird identification book, sits along with the binoculars. Coffee and tea items in the next two images, objects taken from his Yorkshire shop, now are feature’s in his daughter’s kitchen. A shelve of his grocer’s manuals in our lounge, a memory of his work life, his prized ship in a bottle remind of his sailing adventures in distant seas. His silver framed and faded photo of his daughter’s wedding that once lived on top of his piano. The framed river scene behind it, taken by me, recording a place where my wife’s family spent their summer holidays and when her parents divorced, Brian identified this location as a place and time when he was at his happiest. For this reason, it is also the place where my wife and her brother scattered their father ashes. The image holds multiple meaning. His metronome, resting on our mantelpiece, once lived on his piano. This image captures my wife’smemoryfromchildhoodofherfathersettingitgoingeverytimehewalkedpast. Hisdaughterdoesthiseveryonceinawhile, its slow uniform tick an auditory reminder of his memory in our present. The final split image of an antique print Brian acquired on the continental travels of his youth, purposefully presented as partially out of focus and juxtaposed with Sally, his daughter in the background. All the images were carefully selected to tell the story of memory, loss, acceptance and ultimately love found and remembered in the inanimate.

As mentioned this is the hardest area of the assignment to judge and I would welcome advice and guidance of weaving a narrative through my images without a reliance on lengthy text.



This work is firmly located in the ideas of section two of context and narrative and I think my reflection on the topic demonstrates a genuine engagement with the ideas of the brief. On reflection I did spend too much time overthinking the work and I might have better spent some of the time considering the work of a wider range of artist exploring this and similar theme. I also think that I should have started making images sooner in the process. I need to see early images as a drafting process, keeping them in my note/sketch book. I will adopt this process for the next assignment.


This was a challenging assignment that stretched me, not least in the conceptual work required to plan and implement what was a very abstract theme. I think the final execution of the work demonstrates an understanding of the ideas raised in the course materials, but in truth only scratches the journey of recording the unseen. My dilemma is that the work fits the brief for me, but I am uncertain whether others will see it in the same way, others who don’t have the personal proximity to the subject and the ideas. I did consider adding some captions to the images. Looking at the work of others this can be a device to provide context for the viewer. I have been a fan for some time of Paul Seawright’s work and in particular ‘Sectarian Murder’. This is a good example of photographing the unseen. Seawright uses ‘parallel text’ intended to not only provide context but the combination of text and image creates the art. On balance though I decided not to use any more than the introductory text in the work. This strikes me as being at the heart if the challenge for the photographer, how do you make a personal theme relevant to others. I can’t claim to have the answer to this yet! That said, I learned much from this assignment in terms of balancing ideas, managing time and meeting and all be it extended deadline.


Boothroyd, S. (2015) Context and Narrative, Open College of the Arts, Barnsley

D’Hubert, S. (2013) What Remains, found at:

Iwanosski, M. (2016) Clear of People: found (Accessed August 2016)

Manfred Willman- Das Land Blog Entry at:

Orr, J. (2016) In the Lands of Prasutagas – Unpublished Photobook

Seawright, P. (2000) Sectarian Murder, Found at: (Accessed September 2016)

Stromberg, G (2013) Unterwegs-Along the Way, found at:, M (Accessed August 2016)

Taylor, J. (2013) Memories of childhood, found at: (Accessed September 2016)

Umney, J (2015) I Look for Him, found at: (accessed August 2016)
New Pastoral Paradigms-Explorations in Landscape and Self- Open College of the Arts Symposium, Sheffield July 2016- Details can

be found at: (Accessed October 2016)

Morley Observer and Advertiser found at: stepped-into-road-1-1487965

Assignment 2 – Preparation and Planning

1. Photographing the unseen

Start by doing some reflecting in your learning log. What kinds of subjects might be seen as un-photographable? How might you go about portraying them using photography? List a few examples of things you’re experiencing now or have recently been thinking about. This doesn’t have to be too in-depth or revealing, but it can be if you want. Equally, it might be something as apparently trivial as how you’re going to fit everything into your busy day. At first you may come up with literal examples, but the more you think about them the more those ideas will develop into specific and more original ones.

Make a list of at least seven ideas. Try and keep to things you have a personal interest in or curiosity about. Keep a notebook with you at all times and make notes when ideas strike you as interesting. (This is good practice for all stages of the degree and beyond. Ideas books are something to be revisited time and again for ideas and hints for the photographer you’re becoming.)

Now implement one of your ideas. Aim for a tightly edited and visually consistent series of 7–10 images.


Image from C&N Notebook

Of the two options available for this assignment I quickly settled on the first. Although bot presented a challenge and new territory, I quickly started to think about ideas for the first option. That said I then spent a considerable amount of time pondering the challenge of this assignment. In fact I had a  big psychological block and spent far more time thinking and rethinking that I should have done, I may have been overthinking things too. I have been trying to take a more in depth approach to assignments in this second OCA module for me, but there is a balance to strike that i may not have achieved yet.

As a result of all of this thinking I began to pursue a particular  idea, based on my reflections of childhood and significantly  influenced by Jodie Taylor’s work referenced in the course materials. This work struck a real chord with me. I got as far as making a  number of the images  but felt unsatisfied on a number of levels with what I was doing and how the work was developing. As mentioned above I am spending far more time in deeper thinking about the work I am producing and with a newer and more challenging idea for the exercise in mind I decided to start all over again, but I am glad that I did.

An implication of this was that I ran out of time and had to ask my tutor for an extension on the original date. To compound my challenge I also changed jobs during this period and this brought some additional challenges in that I was ‘time poor’ for much of August and a good part of September. The new day job has greater demands than my already demanding work so  have also had to reorder many priorities. I know this goes with the territory when undertaking personal study.

The challenge I had was thinking about a strong enough and engaging enough idea, particularly one which would be recognisable by others. The case studies in the course materials are all bold and inspiring and I think I managed to think myself into a space where I just couldn’t see the wood for the trees. What follows therefore in this blog entry is a review of my initial thinking and ideas.

Themes I initially considered and explored:

Marks on the the land

I live in a very rural, but heavily farmed landscape. As an outsider, although I have been here for 17 years, I don’t hold any notions of the idyllic or the pastoral about the English landscape. The land around me is a man made construct and an industrialised space, far more the product of human intervention than of the topography that underlies it. The massive fields are exploited to their limits by men and machinery and shaped and governed by GPS technology, yield algorithms and the needs of the markets. I was introduced to the work of Manfred Willman and Gerhard Stromberg through my earlier OCA studies and I thought in particular about Stromberg’s work ‘Unterwegs-Along the Way’ and its exploration of themes about our place in the landscape offered some insight into exploring the unseen in the landscape. From my perspective the landscape carries an imprint of  how it has been used and abused and I thought this might be an interesting idea to pursue and explore. I reflected on this sort of issue in my very first OCA assignment, and have continued to record my square mile for personal exploration and development. In part for this reason I decided not to pursue this work just yet!

Journey from childhood to where I am now

Jody Taylor’s work I found very engaging and thought provoking and evocative, in truth more the themes and ideas within her work than the images necessarily. It proved to be inspiring and at first I settled on this as my theme for the assignment. In fact I did some outline work exploring this concept.  As a professional in my mid 50’s I reluctantly have to admit to  moving towards the final phase of my career, one in which I have enjoyed reasonable degree of success. I think it was this that struck a chord when I looked at and reflected on Taylor’s work. I live 175 miles from where I grew up but I invested some time and travelled to the streets of my childhood, including going back to the gates of my primary school and retracing my journey to the house that was my childhood home. It was an interesting and emotional journey through an urban space that was simultaneously alien and familiar. As I walked the two miles I was reminded of a conversation between my parents and the headteacher of my primary school just before I left to go to secondary school. Although more than 40 years ago it was a strong memory, a conversation in which I sat as a silent witness. In short my parents were told that  if I kept my ‘nose clean’ I might just get a job in one of the many factories in the industrial midlands. On leaving primary school this was the highest expectation and best hope  for my future. This conversations contents shaped my parents and my own view of my capacity and capability until I left home in my late teens. This seemed a rich vein to explore but also felt too big and frankly too complex project to do justice in the time available and although I had already invested some time and energy I decided to stop and change track. But it is a theme to which I may return too at some point.

Reflections on my late father in law

This was a very personal and potentially upsetting theme to explore, but one that offered some challenge in stretching me creatively and technically. In 2004 my wife lost her father in a road accident. Following the acrimonious divorce of her parents some years earlier  she grew even closer to him and it has taken many years to come to terms with the tragic circumstances of his death. When we cleared his house and subsequently sold it, my wife was keen to retain a small number of his possession as mementos and reminders of him. I thought of Stephanie D’Hubert’s work referenced in the course work and her reflections on the presence and absence of her mother and I had also recently seen John Upney’s work, “I look for him’ about his own father and his dark relationship with him.  Reflecting on these work and the assignment brief it seemed an interesting idea to explore the part my father in laws possessions  play within our lives. Their impact seemed to be a good example of the unseen and one in which I might seek to meet the expectations  of the assignment. Ultimately it was this theme that I used of the assignment.

Work, Work, Work

I lead a very busy life and as stated earlier I tend to be time poor. I wondered about trying to illustrate this idea through a collection of images of my work environment. it would involve recording fragments of my working day. A big challenge because I needed to think about how I create a sense of the pace of work without it being a literal representation. Added to that I would not be able to just make photographs of what I do for a host of reasons. That said there are traces of my world of work that might be recorded that together could create a sense of a busy working life. I got as far as scoping out some locations and ideas, but ultimately felt this was just too abstract at this stage for me to successfully complete in the time available.

The photographers shadow

I have for some time experimented with my own shadow when making images. Shadow play and self portraiture are well warn paths and not particularly original but I thought exploring the notions of capturing my own shadow while making images might be a way of showing the image maker as the ‘unseen ‘ element in many images. I was reminded  of several  shadow self portraits by Ansel Adams. There is something about these images that anchor the artist in his work without them being physically present and although I know that I will explore self portraiture as part of the third element of this course. Again I decided not to pursue this theme further at this stage.

Traces of time, people and place

Although I live in a rural area, I am 20 miles from the city of Norwich. I have had an ongoing project looking at the contrasts in the built environment of the city. A city which has many buildings dating back to medieval times juxtaposed with some magnificent but hated brutalist edifices. I think the built environment offers insight into how the powerful feel we should all live and in this there is something about class , culture and politics. I have recently completed a personal photobook on the topic. I initially thought I might begin some further work around the theme. I did however think this might be in breach of OCA regulations about using previous work or theme and although I would have created entirely new work I felt I should move on from this theme.

Distant roots and family ties

Although I have lived in England for most of my life and I even have a blunted, but still distinct regional accent, I am still an immigrant, all be it arriving with my parents as an infant. My heritage has always been in the background but over shadowed by my sense of the influence of England and Great Britain on me. That said I remain a dual national and this was brought into sharp relief with the Brexit vote earlier in the year. I was deeply disappointed by the outcome, but respectful of  the voice of the majority. My  18 year daughter is far less sanguine about the outcome of the vote which has led to us taking action as family that I had never thought would occur. Feeling that she as a UK citizen may in the future be cut off from the wealth of opportunities currently available to the young in Europe, particularly study, I began the process of getting dual nationality for her, so that she will retain EU citizenship when the UK leaves the EU. This has been an interesting journey and I thought recording this might prove a fruitful subject. There is a lot of paperwork and I envisaged and almost collage type presentation for the final assignment. However it has been a time consuming process and I felt if I pursued this theme I might again run out of time.

Sally and Illness

This was another potential theme that was close to home and potentially emotional. My wife has not enjoyed good health over a period of time and hospital appointments, medication and adjustments to family life have been a feature of our world. Clearly this  sort of theme is a well worn path for photographers, but each set of personal circumstances is unique and I thought that this fact alone offers the opportunity to create work that meets the brief. I discussed the idea with my wife , which I thought was appropriate given that she, all be it indirectly, would be the subject of the work. She was not averse to the idea but did suggest that elements might be upsetting to her. After a setback in her current round of treatment I decided that this was not an avenue to pursue.

In parallel to investigating the themes above I was reading a re-reading the case studies in the course material to try and gain a deeper understanding of the task. As highlighted in the ideas above and set out in the references, I  looked at and considered the work of a wider range of artists to help me think through the options.

One not mentioned yet is an inspiring collection of images by Polish artist Michel Iwanosski; ‘Clear of People’. This is a record of the epic journey his ancestors made in escaping from capture during the second world war. Retracing their journey through Eastern Europe he records something about the tension and fear they must have felt by documenting the land along the way. To me this work absolutely captures the unseen, using landscape as a metaphor and record. Although I finally settled on  a very different project I was very much influenced by the words Iwanosski when I heard him speak at an OCA Symposium particularly when he spoke of his family history and the power of images to evoke meaning far beyond the contents of the frame.

In summary I did a lot of preparation and had more than one false start before I settled on a final theme for the assignment. 

Reflections on my late father in law became the final choice. It is hard to define precisely why. The course had encouraged some wide thinking and as mentioned already I had initially settled upon and started another theme, but my research and reading drew me back to this idea and with the additional time agreed by my tutor I set about making the work.


Boothroyd, S. (2015) Context and Narrative, Open College of the Arts, Barnsley

D’Hubert, S.  (2013) What Remains, found at:

Iwanosski, M. (2016) Clear of People: found (Accessed August 2016)

Manfred Willman- Das Land Blog Entry at:

Orr, J. (2016) In the Lands of Prasutagas-Unpublished Photobook

Stromberg, G (2013) Unterwegs-Along the Way, found at:, M (Accessed August 2016)

Taylor, J. (2013) Memories of childhood, found at: (Accessed September 2016)

Umney, J (2015) I Look for Him, found at: (accessed August 2016)