Exercise 5.3

Exercise 5.3

“Look again at Henri Cartier-Bresson’s photograph Behind the Gare Saint-Lazare in Part Three. (If you can get to the Victoria & Albert Museum in London you can see an original print on permanent display in the Photography Gallery.) Is there a single element in the image that you could say is the pivotal ‘point’ to which the eye returns again and again? What information does this ‘point’ contain?

Include a short response to Behind the Gare Saint-Lazare in your learning log. You can be as imaginative as you like. In order to contextualise your discussion you might want to include one or two of your own shots, and you may wish to refer to Rinko Kawauchi’s photograph mentioned above or the Theatres series by Hiroshi Sugimoto discussed in Part Three. Write about 150–300 words.”

Henri Cartier-Bresson, Behind the Gare Saint-Lazare


It seems the pivotal point of this photograph is the frozen step. My eye moves from the striding man, to the reflection, around the ‘white space’ of the water and back to the man.

Before I started this course, I hadn’t actually even heard of Bresson, so my response to his work is still reasonably fresh. Its really unsurprisingly he is so celebrated, as his images are ridiculously beautiful. I feel a sense of time travel, particularly when viewing this picture, as this is certainly a frozen moment. The sense of atmosphere and balance of dramatic light and dark tones add to the drama. I’m curious – was Breton himself influenced by previous artists or photographers? Well, his contemporaries included other pioneering folk such as Robert Doisneau and Brassaï but what went before is usually the more formal portraiture we associate with the Victorian era.

There are a few ‘natural’ moments captured before Bresson. This picture is of course a static pose, but what a lovely glimpse of her personality.

And again here – this is posed, but more playful and imaginative than the standard images we are used to seeing from early photography


Casting further back, Bresson would have been familiar with the tradition of narrative painting, for example, a classic plot device, the letter…

Vermeer, The Letter


And dramatic tension!

Artemisia Gentileschi Judith and Her Maidservant with the Head of Holofernes


Hogarth’s Gin Lane shows an alarming decisive moment, due to the perils of drink


Some victorian social documentary photography captures a moment. Here’s some examples from ‘Street Life of London’ (1876)

by Radical journalist Adolphe Smith in collaboration with photographer John Thomson.


These images – such as this poor little girl searching for her parents amongst the drunken customers, were deliberately intended to shock, and highlight poverty and social inequality.


So was Bresson concerned with social issues? Probably not in quite the same way. But I have read criticism of him as being ‘cold’ because his composition is so perfect and elegant. I really disagree, I think he loved humankind and had a empathy for his subjects.

Bresson has influenced so many people since, it’s hard to condense so much ‘post Bresson’ work. However, as an example, using a form of ‘visual haikus’ Rinko Kawauchi is concerned about capturing ‘A moment about to happen. This feeling of catching the tail end of a whisper or the beginning of a storm is more important to her than planned composition.’ – Lucy Andia

Her work differs from Bresson, in that it is more about the story, and less about the perfect shot. I get the feeling that many modern photographers feel that ‘perfection’ has been done, and its time to move forward with a more edgey approach. Kawauchi seems to almost serve as an opposite to Bresson – if he presents a perfect pure note, she counters with a challenging discordant one. And so any art form shifts and explores subject matter in different ways, sometimes referencing what has gone before, sometimes rebelling against it.

Untitled (from the series: Uatatane), 2001
Untitled (from the series: Uatatane), 2001

I think Bresson had an extraordinary eye that cannot be ignored to this day. His framing, and pure instinct for capturing this moment made the camera his perfect medium.


Exercise 5.2

Exercise 5.2

“Select an image by any photographer of your choice and take a photograph in response to it. You can respond in any way you like to the whole image or to just a part of it, but you must make explicit in your notes what it is that you’re responding to. Is it a stylistic device such as John Davies’ high viewpoint, or Chris Steele Perkins’ juxtapositions? Is it the location, or the subject? Is it an idea, such as the decisive moment?

Add the original photograph together with your response to your learning log. Which of the three types of information discussed by Barrett provides the context in this case? Take your time over writing your response because you’ll submit the relevant part of your learning log as part of Assignment Five.”

I’ve chosen to look at landscape photographer, Rachel Burch. She has kindly allowed me to display some of her images here.





Rachel Burch trained before digital took hold, at a time when all photography students learnt to use a dark room and produce their own images from scratch. She tends to publish her images without post processing, avoiding techniques such as image stacking, or altering the colour balance. The light captured is natural, and to me totally suited to the subject matter. ‘Hyper-real’ images can look stunning, but I think its sometimes a technique thats over used, and can perhaps be a little cliched.

The mood of these images vary. You can see the first two are in bright, rich sunlight. I’ve deliberately displayed them changing in tone as you scroll down the page, where they become more softer and more dream-like as you go on. Its is this quality of natural light that I’m responding to – the lovely reflective nature of the water lying on the sand, gently sparkling sea,  the light diffused through cloud, and entering the mouth of a cave. I think it shows a love of the natural world, and captures a stillness and sense of atmosphere that is understated.

This is what I hoped to try and capture, especially as I now live less than 10 mins drive from the sea (or estuary, strictly speaking). It was lovely to be able to get outside for this one and enjoy the gorgeous view. I just had to take pot luck when health allowed – but I got very lucky with a beautiful day!

Here are the results:


Rachel Burch inspired images

I had to include this picture, simply because I loved this house nestling in the dunes!






For these last three images, I’ve got the sun behind me, and these lovely boats are conveniently arranged on the sand! This was taken mid afternoon – inevitably the light quality is different from some of Rachel Burch’s photos, but I hope I’ve managed to capture the mirrored quality of the water…


Perhaps more so in these last two.  I like the drama better with this image, but I think the smaller boats are a little distracting.


Final Choice

I did notice my horizon is pretty much half way up this picture, not ideal… Despite cropping this one,  but I didn’t want to loose too much land or sky! I quite like the way it heightens the horizontal sweep of landscape though, being narrower.






Exercise 5.1

Exercise 5.1 The Distance Between Us

“Use your camera as a measuring device. This doesn’t refer to the distance scale on the focus ring(!). Rather, find a subject that you have an empathy with and take a sequence of shots to ‘explore the distance between you’. Add the sequence to your learning log, indicating which is your ‘select’ – your best shot.”

I had a little trouble choosing my subject for this one as I couldn’t think of an object I had empathy with…then I realised the most obvious choice is to take pictures of my partner. This was quite challenging, as he is currently madly busy doing up our house, which meant I grabbed my camera with no preparation or time to think.

Its quite irritating having someone waving a camera around when you are in the middle of working, so I just had to get on with it. but I think this caused me not to over think what I was doing and maybe that helped my creativity. As you can see, some of the images are underexposed. I used my on camera flash as a spur of the moment fix.

contactsheet-001 contactsheet-002

Unexpected things

This is a mistake I like: I know this is underexposed, but I like the tinge of blue back light.


I’ve been telling him Crocs are evil for quite some time, but he still wears them… I prefer the stance of the feet facing front, though I’m not sure why. Maybe its because you know the subject must be facing you, but we are looking at his feet. You can see the light by his left foot has blown which isn’t ‘good’, but its pretty (to me!) Other details have crept into the frame – workbench,  chairs and his bike.


Cropped close up. The more images I took, the more I got drawn into looking at texture. Can I get away with the frame being in focus not the person? I hope so…I like that he’s frowning!


Completely distracted now…I was drawn to the wood, metal and flaky yellow paint


The background is very mottled and grainy – but I love the patina on this old pipe. pipe

Through a gap in the wall again – this time ignoring texture and having my subject in focus


Love the texture again here – and the blue paint with the ‘orange’ tones of the brick and his face


I should add this is not staged; he was in mid phone call which allowed me to get a more natural facial expression




The ISO is up to 800 on some of these shots, and I did have difficulty taking pictures indoors with limited light, also the exposure was particularly tricky when shooting through the hole on the wall. I did up the exposure in photoshop for some of these images. If you’re being picky, I gather some people would re-work the catch light – to add one to both eyes and re-position at two or ten o’clock.

As I type this, the hole in the wall is already boarded up, and the opportunity to return to the same view point has gone. I got really drawn into this subject, it was so interesting to see what happened within the frame, and also how much I was drawn to texture every bit as much as capturing my partner…Using the relationship between him and his surroundings,  allowed me to shift emphasis from him to the fabric of the building and back again.




Exercise 4.5


“Make a Google Images search for ‘landscape’, ‘portrait’, or any ordinary subject such as ‘apple’ or ‘sunset’. Add a screengrab of a representative page to your learning log and note down the similarities you find between the images.

Now take a number of your own photographs of the same subject, paying special attention to the ‘Creativity’ criteria at the end of Part One. You might like to make the subject appear ‘incidental’, for instance by using juxtaposition, focus or framing. Or you might begin with the observation of Ernst Haas, or the ‘camera vision’ of Bill Brandt.

Add a final image to your learning log, together with a selection of preparatory shots. In your notes describe how your photograph differs from your Google Images source images of the same subject.”

Here’s a google image search for ‘shoe(s)’


What’s immediately apparent is most shoes are displayed on a white background, as a pair, with no other distractions. Sometimes the shoes are worn by someone, but not that often. Although the purpose of the image is probably clear, its fair to say they are a little boring!

My experiments with shoes mostly revolved around my available footwear, which is a pair of boots and flip flops. So for the sake of accuracy, heres a couple of specific searches


Flip flops are a bit more fun – I like the image with the row of them on a washing line.

My image

I just had fun with this. It was good to focus on being playful rather than thinking about whether I was using the camera correctly.


As it turns out, wearing your flip flops on your arms isn’t that effective. I liked the idea of garden a ornament wearing my boot, or of course a garden bench. These are my favourites:




Exercise 4.4

“Use a combination of quality, contrast, direction and colour to light an object in order to reveal its form. For this exercise we recommend that you choose a natural or organic object such as an egg, stone, vegetable or plant, or the human face or body, rather than a man-made object. Man-made or cultural artefacts can be fascinating to light but they also contain another layer of meaning requiring interpretation by the photographer; this exercise is just about controlling the light to reveal form…”

This exercise was very challenging for me. I’m keen to learn how to use artificial lighting, but of course its a very technical subject for a beginner, and I really struggled.

Here’s the contact sheet…we were asked to sketch our lighting set up, but it seemed just as easy to photograph it.

ContactSheet-001 ContactSheet-002

I’ve picked out a few pictures here to show my lighting set up. For my first attempt, I mostly used one light, with a white paper background, and card covered with tin foil.


Overhead light obviously reduces shadow


Lit from the side, I could vary the depth of the shadow – its quite gentle in this shot


Experimenting with the distance of the light source…


Changing the direction




The addition of a very small fill light



For the second attempt, I added a second light, in the shape of a head torch (no, I wasn’t wearing it!) and a cloth background. The head torch was brighter than I expected for its small size, so I rather lost control of it as a fill light, which was my original intention.


As you can see, it was possible to direct the lighting into the shadow of the pebble


In your notes try to describe any similarities between the qualities of controlled lighting and the daylight and ambient artificial light shots from Exercises 4.2 and 4.3.”

Although the types of lighting we have been looking at are very different, there are some common factors we can see emerge. The stronger the light source, with a high contrast between light and shadow, the more we can see form. If the light is quite diffuse, the effects are more subtle, and objects can appear flatter. Direct overhead light from either midday sun or a lamp causes a small pool of shadow. Whatever the light source, the laws of physics apply!




Exercise 4.3

“Capture ‘the beauty of artificial light’ in a short sequence of shots (‘beauty’ is, of course, a subjective term). The correct white balance setting will be important; this can get tricky –but interesting – if there are mixed light sources of different colour temperatures in the same shot. You can shoot indoors or outside but the light should be ambient rather than camera flash. Add the sequence to your learning log. In your notes try to describe the difference in the quality of light from the daylight shots in Exercise 4.2.”

Before beginning, I had a look at the work of some photographers.


Richard Silver – this caught my attention, as it seems to represent a transition between the previous exercise (when we were asked to photograph a scene throughout the day), to this current one – working with artificial light. This image moves from daylight, to an atmospheric night time scene – using both natural and artificial light. The slices perform a really effective sweep of different light and colour textures, combined in one picture.



Andy Frazer – Although there are plenty of images showing headlights as streams of light, I think the composition of the blank background, the upright posts, and curved road are particularly effective. The action appears suspended in stillness.



Karekin Goekjian – A more staged nighttime scene, beautifully atmosheric. I feel we are peeking at an instant that forms part of a mysterious narrative. The lighting is warm in colour, and the texture of the building appears soft, drawing us into the picture.


It was suggested we look at Brassai, who was particularly known for his pictures of night time Paris. He seems to have been drawn to both urban landscape and character studies, with beautiful dramatic lighting.


I think many of the images look like film stills, particularly film noir. This shot from ‘The Third Man” echoes Brassai’s work.



Back to Brassai. Here you can see our interest is drawn to the focal point of the picture by using very high contrast between darkest darks, to sharply bright highlights. The midtones are secondary – they are not part of our main focus, and are present in the lesser parts of scenery.





A totally different style comes from Sato Shintaro. This is a bright, vibrant modern image, the colours jostle for our attention, its a lot for the eye to take in, and we may find our eye moving restlessly through the image, just like the energy of the city depicted in this scene.



By way of a massive anti-climax, here’s my work…

As you’re probably bored of me saying by now, I’m new to all this. I decided to keep things relatively simple and experiment with dramatic lighting using candles and solar powered fairy lights.

I wasn’t sure how to capture candle light, in that the low lighting requires enough exposure, but the slow shutter speed meant the flame wasn’t that sharp. I don’t feel I have solved this dilemma but it was interesting to try. It was good to see which ideas worked as I explored this theme. My least favourite was candles against coloured fabric background. But I noticed that candles on a dark background (such the electric hob, with a dark vertical background) looked the most dramatic so I ran with this.



My best bits…These are the images I’ve selected as being the most interesting or effective.

For this row of candles, I was paying attention to the light meter, however, I wanted to be more dramatic with even less mid tomes, so for the next image I let the exposure drop down to being underexposed.


Although this is now very dark – and my light meter wasn’t happy, I feel this makes for a more striking (if not terribly original) image.

1/40 sec;   f/5.6;   ISO 800


Again, no points for originality, but I was pleased with this one, as this continues the theme of the reflection caused by the candle flame. I like the utter blackness surrounding the light.

1/15 sec;   f/5.6;   ISO 800


This took a while to set up, and I have to thank my partner for the idea! This is taken looking through a glass and metal table, with the lights positioned on a pile of objects (a cookery book, bowl, and metal tray) to get the correct height. I’d like to think this has resulted in a rather interesting and atmospheric image?!

0.3 sec;   f/5.6;   ISO 800


Here I was experimenting with holding the candle. Hopefully you can see just enough of my hand to make this image effective.

1/6 sec;   f/5.6;   ISO 800


This was tricky to take, as I was juggling how to position my arm effectively. You can see the little lights cast a red glow onto my skin.

1/6 sec;   f/5.6;   ISO 800


I think this one works slightly better, as my hand is a little more curved around the lights, my intention was to make them look like they were falling.

1/6 sec;   f/5.6;   ISO 800


Lastly, because of the red glow on my skin, I decided to alter the colour just to see how this would alter the appearance of the image.

Here it is in black and white (with a little tweaking using curves)


And a change of colour


So have I captured ‘the beauty of artificial light’? Hmm. Well, yes to the best of my ability! Improvements? Greater originality would be good, and of course better developed technical skills. I think this could be developed further by using a greater variety of lighting (such as different coloured lights) or shooting a scene that has been shot with artificial lighting, where the subject is not principally the light itself, but more about the effect it creates on both objects, and the mood of the scene.





Exercise 4.2

“In manual mode take a sequence of shots of a subject of your choosing at different times on a single day. It doesn’t matter if the day is overcast or clear but you need a good spread of times from early morning to dusk. You might decide to fix your viewpoint or you might prefer to ‘work into’ your subject, but the important thing is to observe the light, not just photograph it. Add the sequence to your learning log together with a timestamp from the time/date info in the metadata. In your own words, briefly describe the quality of light in each image.”

I think viewing light for the purposes of photography overlaps with art/painting quite a lot. A flat image isn’t much good for reference, contrasting tone really helps to show form. Returning to the same image in different light makes you think of Monet’s haystack series. He was clearly deeply absorbed in observing the quality of light each time he painted these.

Monet Haystack Series

Unfortunately I wasn’t able to start my photo sequence at dawn, which I understand is an important time of day for photography, but I have done my best to observe the light from the morning to dusk.

Taking images of the same subject and paying attention to the light meter was excellent practise for me to begin to grasp how to make the appropriate adjustments. As the day progressed, I was beginning to find it more natural to check the light meter through my viewfinder (I could then easily twiddle the dial to alter shutter speed without moving my eye away away from the scene). After shooting I then referred to the histogram, which is becoming a useful tool rather than a baffling piece of data.

9.30 AM 

1/400  f 9  ISO 400

The light appears a little flat here, but in fact this is due to my poor photography skills – there were shadows present I just didn’t capture them! I feel this is the least accurate picture in terms of what I was seeing in real life.


11.30 AM

1/200  f18 ISO 400

The weather has worsened a little, and the quality of light was genuinely more dull here. You can see the sky is more grey



1/200 f18 ISO 400

I’m quite pleased with this picture. The weather has brightened again, and you can see the sun is high in the sky from the shadow cast by this tree.



1/320 f18 ISO 400

And we’re back to overcast again. You can count on British weather. I feel the greys look ‘richer’ in this image though and there is an amount of drama (perhaps?!)


5.30 PM

1/250 f20 ISO 400

I think my ability to get the exposure right has hopefully improved as the day has progressed. Here you can see the sun has moved to the left, as the shadow is now falling to the right and has lengthened. It seems to me the colours look ‘true’ with a full range of lights and darks.


7.30 PM

1/4000 sec;   f/3.5;   ISO 400

Dramatic evening light, with longer, deeper shadow. I upped the shutter speed too much, which has resulted in this being underexposed…


Here’s the histogram. I’m still experimenting with aperture and shutter speed to see the different results


8.20 PM

1/30 sec;   f/11;   ISO 400

No spectacular sunset – and if there was I’d need to rotate to my left. But you can see subtle orange tones, and a sliver of light on the corner of the house and catching the top of the tree.


8.50 PM

1/30 sec;   f/7.1;   ISO 800

According to the internet, sunset is about 8.50pm. Everything has gone grey now, and I’m not sure its quite so easy to guess what time of day this is.



1/30 sec;   f/3.5;   ISO 800

Its just beginning to get dark, and the lamp post is starting to glow. Consequently this is my last pic of the day. Here the image has a bit more richness to it again. The darks are quite velvety, and with light becoming scarce, the tree becomes closer to a silhouette.


This has been an interesting day. By this time I have earnt the reputation amongst my neighbours as being that weird woman who just moved in. Taking multiple photos of a 1970s cul-de-sac does look a bit odd. Happily enough I met a new neighbour this morning who introduced himself as Clive. He didn’t ask what I was doing.

I’m sorry I missed sunrise (currently about 5.50am, it being the height of summer)… I promise to pop out another day if I have insomnia(!) Despite missing this crucial opening part of the sequence, its actually been surprisingly good to pay so much attention to the day unfolding, even from such an ordinary viewpoint.


Exercise 4.1

  1. “Set your camera to any of the auto or semi-auto modes. Photograph a dark tone (such as a black jacket), a mid-tone (the inside of a cereal packet traditionally makes a useful ‘grey card’) and a light tone (such as a sheet of white paper), making sure that the tone fills the viewfinder frame (it’s not necessary to focus). Add the shots to your learning log with quick sketches of the histograms and your observations.”
  2. Set your camera to manual mode. Now you can see your light meter! The mid- tone exposure is indicated by the ‘0’ on the meter scale with darker or lighter exposures as – or + on either side. Repeat the exercise in manual mode, this time adjusting either your aperture or shutter to place the dark, mid and light tones at their correct positions on the histogram. The light and dark tones shouldn’t fall off either the left or right side of the graph. Add the shots to your learning log with sketches of their histograms and your observations.”

    Auto Mode

    1) A White Wall. You can see that the histogram is actually a little off centre here, but it was a very sunny day. To be honest it wasn’t until afterwards that it occurred to me that I could have set the white balance to direct sunlight, I’m guessing this might have helped.


    2) Grey Paving. In our notes we are told that a variation in tone can cause a slightly wider histogram – and here it is


    3) Black Trousers. The histogram is firmly in the middle, and the trousers appear bleached out compared to their ‘real life’ colour.


    Manual Mode

    Well, I’m sure for many actual photographers having proper control is really their preferred way of working, however for me, I’ve never used it before and its a bit daunting! Happily the way the course is written, everything has laid the ground work for me to take off the ‘training wheels’, so here I go…

    1) A White Wall. 1/640  f 6.3 ISO 400

    Wow! I can’t believe the difference. This is SUCH useful information both for this course and more broadly for my student work… Whenever I have photographed artwork,  I’ve never understood why the paper always looks grey. The alternative is of course to use the scanner, but this sometimes bleaches out the detail, and you can lose subtlety. Back to photography – the histogram is peaking right at the limit, and I don’t know if I have overdone it here, but you can still see the texture of the wall and some variation in tone.


    2) Grey Paving 1/640  f 6.3 ISO 400

    I kept the settings the same to understand how this works for a mid tone – and here’s a nicely centred histogram to match


    3) Black Trousers  1/640  f 6.3 ISO 400

    This first image is taken without changing settings, so I could understand more fully what is happening. Obviously its now very dark and all detail is lost, which is echoed in the sharp spike of the histogram.


    I did just explore whether it was possible to rescue this in photoshop – it was, but of course I want to learn how not to rely on post processing


    Here’s my second picture which is 1/40  f 36  ISO 400 and I think this is reasonably successful


    And a final experiment 1/40 f 9 ISO 400 The histogram is a sharper spike, and I suspect technically this is too dark, however it is very close to the actual trousers in real life


    I have learnt a lot from this exercise, as I’ve been struggling to understand how to draw on the information provided by a histogram. I gathered that although some advice tells you a ‘perfect’ histogram is one very like the centre curve of the grey paving, but it depends on the subject. So far I have had the option to leave the White Balance on auto, or change the setting – but with variable results. I haven’t got to grips with exposure, and some of my previous images have been underexposed. This is my first glimpse of how to gain better control – I don’t feel for a second I have fully grasped it, but its an important part of my learning process. I hope to build on this now as I mov through the rest of the course.

Exercise 3.3


  1. “What do the timeframes of the camera actually look like? If you have a manual film camera, open the camera back (make sure there’s no film in the camera first!) and look through the shutter as you press the shutter release. What is the shortest duration in which your eyes can perceive a recognisable image in bright daylight? Describe the experiment in your learning log.
  2. Find a good viewpoint, perhaps fairly high up (an upstairs window might do) where you can see a wide view or panorama. Start by looking at the things closest to you in the foreground. Then pay attention to the details in the middle distance and, finally, the things towards the horizon. Now try and see the whole landscape together, from the foreground to horizon (you can move your eyes). Include the sky in your observation and try to see the whole visual field together, all in movement (there is always some movement). When you’ve got it, raise your camera and take a picture. Add the picture and a description of the process to your learning log.”

Unfortunately I can’t complete question 1 at this time, as I don’t currently have access to a manual camera. If I do get the chance to look at one, I’ll return to this and comment then.

I positioned myself at an upstairs window which looks down over the garden (We are staying my ‘in laws’ home til our house sale goes through)

1/20 sec;   f/22;   ISO 100 Here’s the view using a wide angle attachment. It was less than a tenner, and yes I suppose you get what you pay for! Obviously this heavy vignetting wasn’t my intention, but it sort of feel like looking through a porthole?!


1/10 sec;   f/22;   ISO 100 You can just see the edge of the window frame bottom right, and strangely static washing!


1/30 sec;   f/20;   ISO 100  Lovely sky and billowing washing.  I didn’t feel the camera lens placed a feeling of restricted view for this shot, as it felt quite close to the view I was actually seeing. Surprising how much landscape can be viewed through a normal kit lens.




Exercise 3.2

“Start by doing your own research into some of the artists discussed.

Then, using slow shutter speeds, the multiple exposure function, or another technique inspired by the examples, try to record the trace of movement within the frame. You can be as experimental as you like. Add a selection of shots together with relevant shooting data and a description of your process (how you captured the shots) to your learning log.”

Robert Capa – (B. Endre Friedmann) was a Hungarian war photographer best known for the coverage of D-Day 1944, for Life magazine. He settled in the States, and worked on other conflicts for the US media, such as the Spanish Civil War and was killed in 1954 whilst on assignment in Vietnam.

Its difficult to imagine how photographers managed to work at that time, and how physically vulnerable they were during this kind of assignment. I feel his work displays courage and quick thinking during really extreme conditions. I also think its to his enormous credit that he helped save the life of a fellow photographer, who had been shot four times in the shoulder, whilst weighed down by equipment trying to reach the shore.

It seems that the motion blur in his iconic D-Day photo was a result of the extreme conditions, rather than a device deliberately employed by him. However, its interesting that a debate remains over whether the picture known as “The Falling Solider”,  taken during the Spanish Civil War, was actually staged.


He and his partner Gerda Taro, were politically motivated in their reporting of the conflict, rather than remaining impartial. However I gather that the staging of photos was generally quite common at the time. And this begs the question – should a photographer always be impartial? Gerda Taro was the first female war photographer to be killed in the field, in Madrid, 1937. Whatever the ‘truth’ of their images, all evidence points to their deep sense of involvement in their subject. I can’t help respecting that.

Robert Capa’s Iconic D-Day Photo of a Soldier in the Surf



Robert Frank – is an American photographer and film maker, most famous for his book “The Americans”.  Travelling around America with his family in the 1950s, he took a huge number of photos – a total of 28,000 pictures – and when first published, the book displayed just 83 black and white images.  The pictures are a compelling set of ‘character studies’ from a cross section of society.  Guardian journalist Sean O’Hagan comments that Franks work was provocative as “it flew in the face of the wholesome pictorialism and heartfelt photojournalism of American magazines like Life and Time. The Americans was shocking – and enduringly influential – because it simply showed things as they were. ‘I was tired of romanticism,” Frank told me, ‘I wanted to present what I saw, pure and simple.’ ”


I would argue that the American public did have the stomach for realism. Other photographers were also interested in ‘real life’,  not just pretty pictures. One early example is Dorothea Lange, her depiction of America during the depression is credited with helping to highlight the urgent need for support. I feel her emphasis was on human endurance, humanity and suffering.


In contrast, I’m a little uncomfortable about realism that depicts people as ‘ugly’. Some contemporary street photographers such as Bruce Gilden seem to almost alienate the viewer by emphasising the awkwardness of humans. I feel is a more aggressive and far less respectful way of revealing our human quirks.

Here’s another welcome example of the emphasis on our humanity, is Del La Grace Volcano, an American trangender photographer. The images draw us in, they are often playful, and warm. These are not photos of victims made to shock us.

Del La Grace VolcanoDel La Grace

I often think it shows when a photographer likes their subjects!



Hiroshi Sugimoto – A Japanese photographer who experimented with keeping his shutter open for hours, notably in cinemas for the duration of a film. I read one of my fellow students comment about this, namely that the idea is a great deal more interesting than the actual photos. So true! Its just a a series of dark cinema interiors with a white screen. Only light remains. Kinda poetic but not that interesting to look at. If you’ve seen one…you’ve seen em all.

In contrast, I think this is diorama series is much more interesting. Taxidermy anyone?



Michael Wesely – This German chap used really long exposures, of several years in duration! (Question – how did he keep the camera there the whole time? Where was it positioned without being nicked?)

Anyway. The results are rather graceful and other worldly. Lovely.




Maarten Vanvolsem – This technique uses the ‘strip-scan process’, which builds up multiple pieces of an image like a still film sequence, fused into a single picture. I really like this effect, it feels a bit like a strange kind of time travel or parallel universe.



Francesca Woodman – Autobiographical photography which is imaginative, haunting and poignant. I think its inevitable that my response to her work is heightened by the knowledge of her untimely death. She was just 22 years old when she took her own life. I wonder how we would view this work if we could now google a mature smiling woman with decades of work behind her? It’s very sad this is the only window we will ever have on her world.





My work 

I had a go at capturing water from my kitchen tap, these shutter speeds were the slowest I could manage without my hands causing camera shake.

1/25 sec;   f/16;   ISO 200


I really like the way the water appears to have a trail of ‘electric sparks’ here, as the movement is frozen, but still has energy


The rest of these pictures are taken after buying a tripod, as it became clear I would struggle to experiment any further with slow shutter speeds without one.  This is the stream at the end of the garden where I’m staying. Why the odd composition?Unfortunately the only access is looking down over this wall. But it allowed me to start using the tripod and timer delay.

1.0 sec;   f/18;   ISO 100


Next I looked at movement inspired by nature and the passage of time, in the form of a cloudy sky and a sun dial. This is my first attempt at multiple exposure. I’m not sure if my camera has this setting, so I took pictures and combined them very simply in photoshop. I’d read that one of the images needs to be under exposed to allow the second image to show through…

So I took a few pictures of the sky 1/80 sec;   f/18;   ISO 100


And here’s the sundial – at normal exposure


And under exposed 1/60 sec;   f/29;   ISO 100


I opened both images in photoshop, laid the sky on top and altered it to ‘Screen’ to mimic a double exposure. Here’s the result


I’m not really sure its worked very well, I think it would require a lot more fiddling in photoshop to make it look good?!

My last experiment was inspired more directly by one of the photographers we were asked to look at – Francesca Woodman. and one of my fellow OCA students, Alan http://whatifiamwrong.weebly.com/square-mile.html who has produced some really inspiring autobiographical work.

I’m very conscious that I have been taking rather boring impersonal images, and that it would be interesting to put a little more of my own life into my pictures, although I’m still really unsure how to do this in a way that makes sense to anyone else…

What I want to say is about my experience of chronic physical illness, and the frustrations and limitations it imposes. I decided to use the technique of keeping most of my body stationary, while moving my arms or head to create motion blur.

How to show something emotionally real and meaningful? Hmmmm. It seems that photographers quite often use nudity…. Um. That’s not gonna happen! Obviously I’m self conscious, but also I feel there are probably enough images of women in vulnerable poses (e.g. lying prone, curled up in feotal position etc) already, and I don’t want to look passive.

Honstly, I felt a bit weird and stupid staging these pictures as of course I had to pose for them. I’m still cringing as I post these. Do I need to explain it? Well thats my folding seat as I have difficulty standing for long, and the doors to life are often metaphorically closed. Blah, blah. The seat baffles people in real life too. And sometimes makes people laugh.

1.0 sec;   f/16;   ISO 100







On showing these to several kind friends who also have chronic health problems, the feedback was that the images had emotional resonance for them, but would maybe need further explanation for a ‘general audience’. I still working on how to communicate via image!