Overall Self-Assessment for People and Place


The Digital Photographic Practice Handbook has now arrived so this seems the right point, just before the Assessment event, to look back and assess my overall progress since April 2012 when I first started People and Place. I won’t go into any particular detail here because I reflected all the way through my blog on specific aspects as I’ve written up the Assignments.

Progress through the Module

There were times during those first months when I wondered whether I would get through it and felt ‘stuck’ because so much was challenged in respect of my inhibitions, skills and general competence around photography.

_MG_5354 12x8 lr

I worked at a much slower pace compared with TAOP but I’ve realised recently that I’ve covered quite a lot of ground in terms of taking on new ways of looking at photography; reading; understanding, and also building supportive networks. The first Assignment, being portraiture, seemed a big hurdle to jump but I learned through completing it that I do have some interest in environmental portraiture and so I enjoyed the second Assignment more and photographing people in their allotments.  I hadn’t expected to enjoy photographing buildings for Assignment 3 but, although I struggled with interiors and working in low light, I became absorbed in understanding how people experience space and place and practised achieving an almost meditative state to gain a sense of place and find the personality of a building. It was also at that point that I began to contact photographers to ask permission to use their images on my blog.

Building supportive networks

I can’t say I’m a group person but I’m certainly not a lone worker and links with other students continue to be very important to me. I began the Module with an independent Residential Workshop at the Photographers Place in Derbyshire but have been on a further three OCA-related residential visits – the student organised weekend in Leeds, and the OCA visits to the Brighton Biennial and Arles. I’ve continued to join day Study Visits, including the Talk by Tom Hunter where it was fascinating to learn about his experiences and approach towards photographing ‘ordinary’ people and making his chosen home area come alive. At one point I realised that I was getting over-saturated with images and overwhelmed by all the reading and research I was doing after Study Visits and so I have cut down on this to some extent and attempted to get more of a balance. I was very pleased though to be named as ‘Blog of the Week’ in August last year on the WeAreOCA blog.

The OCA Thames Valley Group meetings have been very important in motivating me to improve my photography practice. It’s certainly helpful to discuss photography on the online Forums and Study Visits but there’s nothing to beat sustained face-to-face discussion and risking showing ‘work in progress’. An outcome of that has also been some informal, smaller get-togethers to look at Exhibitions etc. I

What kind of photographer might I be becoming?

It was only when I was working on Assignment 5 though that I realised that everything seemed to be coming together for me.  I had built a Project that combined People and Place and past and present in terms of looking at how an architectural concept from the 1960s worked in practice and I enjoyed every aspect of this.  I have also begun to get an inkling of the kind of photographer I might be developing into.

I’ve realised that I am particularly interested in Cultural Geography, the interaction between people and their environment and living history. I was reading somewhere about ‘quiet’ photography that somehow allows the subject to speak for itself and that appeals to me.  Some ‘sleeping’ skills also re-surfaced during Assignment 5 and that was talking with people about their lives and hearing their stories – something that was the backbone of my working life. Writing about all that isn’t a problem at all but I know that what I need to develop is my confidence that I can do people justice with my photography.

Areas for improvement

Obviously I need to improve and develop generally but there are some aspects that I think need particular attention. I enjoy the printing process and have always submitted prints as well as digital files for Assignments.  My tutor on People and Place was generous with his suggestions for improvements and generally positive about my prints, given that I am still on Level 1 but I want my prints to be more than’ acceptable’ so my action plan for my next Module (Digital Photographic Practice) includes a Workshop on printing techniques.

My tutor also ‘re-edited’ my last two assignments.  This did give me a jolt because I hadn’t been expecting something like that, even though this happens regularly with the Thames Valley group.  Doing it face to face though is very different from experiencing it a distance where there isn’t much space for on-going discussion. What was positive was that I had enough good images to put together different edits. Going on from there I do want to develop my editing skills. Editing and printing come together in Photo books and that’s another area for further development and exploration.  I’ve already enrolled on an evening class in Book Arts and book-binding techniques because I find the whole area of creating books fascinating, although this isn’t discounting other methods of presentation.

I began several personal projects, including working with film and also a medium format camera. I’ve been very stop-go at this, somehow viewing it as separate from Coursework and so I want to focus more and, plan for these to become more cohesive with assignment work.

Multi-disciplinary work is another area for exploration and I already subscribe to a number of blogs in art, creative writing and video work. I’ve experimented with poetry in past years and now have renewed interest in combining this with photography. I like the idea of collaborative work. There is much I would like to do and what’s needed now is to condense my thoughts into my action plan for my next Module. I’m feeling enthusiastic and that’s a good feeling.

1st November 2013


People & Place Assignment 5: Response to Tutor feedback

I was pleased to have the usual quick feedback from my tutor, especially as this is the final Assignment for the module. His overall comments were brief but positive so good to start with:-

Overall this has been another good assignment. I was impressed with the lengths you went to find an interesting subject and explore it in an interesting way. I thought you hit upon something interesting by finding a long term resident and this may have been the best avenue to explore –a series influenced by Geoffrey’s memories of a life spent in this place. If you could fit in another trip then this would be a very interesting avenue to pursue –speak to Geoffrey whilst showing him your photographs and see what memories they conjure. If you record this session then you could use this information as the basis for captions for the photographs. This would form a fascinating link between the photographs of Geoffrey and his home and the photographs of the wider space. This is certainly not a requirement for level one though and may be just something to consider in later modules.

  • Re my query regarding different sizes of prints:  a  mock-up of a magazine article can dictate how the work is viewed and relative sizes of each photo.  I can still present prints of different sizes but this works better on a wall than submitting a portfolio of loose prints.
  • Agreement that this could be a very interesting multimedia project – with video and audio interviews alongside still photographs of the landscape.
  • I should have held out for the ultra-modern interior, ultra-wide lens shot from same viewpoint, as an interesting counterpoint.  Certainly ,Geoffrey and I had talked about how this type of house can adapt itself to different ages and types of furniture etc and this idea is something I can always return to in the future.
  • Portrait submitted of Geoffrey not the strongest and suggestion that 5579 is a more natural composition.  I had thought of that one but hadn’t been sure because of the angle that had been necessary due to the small amount of space for manoeuvring with my camera.
  • A portrait of Geoffrey is important to avoid interior shots becoming a bit “’Through the Keyhole-esque’”.   Also a detail shot does give the sense of the house being a lived-in space and my tutor liked the idea of 5722 which shows the built-in cupboard between kitchen and dining area.  Suggestions made re the crop and straightening but I’d already done that – I hadn’t included this in my final 12 because it was portrait orientation and I’d thought this would make it ‘stick-out’ and lead to a comment about it.
  • My overall edit is interesting – particularly those showing the close relationship between the estate and the landscape. On that point I may need to open the series a little differently – showing the houses within their setting.  5722 suggested but without the car. I had used that image in my write-up when discussing my visits to Templemere.   An initial attempt at ‘removing’ the car hadn’t worked. Also a suggestion that, (although I have already done it this way),  I more definitely divide  the series into 3 ‘Acts’  – houses in their setting, residents and interiors, wider forest setting.
  • With Geoffrey as the only person I need captions relating to how he sees the place. Suggestion of visit to him with my final pictures so that he can relate his memories of living in this place. This would tie the work together and make the series about his life within this space.
  • As I’d expected, my tutor also did a slightly different rough edit

Here is my original edit:

Screen Shot 2013-09-20 at 14.38.46

Here is my tutor’s edit:

Screen Shot 2013-09-20 at 14.35.24

My tutor has chosen the more contextual portrait of Geoffrey, and replaced the shot of the two chairs with a wider view of the living area that also shows his original room heater.  The closer shot giving more prominence to the room heater is replaced by the cupboard detail. I had originally thought of  5471 for one view of the houses but had decided against that because the grass had turned brown due to the prevailing hot, sunny weather without rain.

  • My tutor noted also that it might be useful to have a view out of a window that, ‘could serve to tie the forest and estate images together’.  Geoffrey has nets at his window which was why I hadn’t done that.
  • So far as technical details were concerned my tutor had noticed I was getting some chromatic aberration where the sky comes through the trees and suggested the fix. This was because of my attempts to reduce the extremes between almost white skies at times and dark greenery. Prints generally acceptable although some a little cool looking and one print (No. 12) was a bit green. Fix suggested.  I’ll do a re-check when the prints have been returned to me.
  • A wider reading list of blogs suggested. In fact I do have a long list of blogs I follow which also include art; creative writing and design. Some I follow through WordPress but others from different hosts are followed via Bloglovin. I hadn’t entered links onto my blog because it is such a long list. In fact I’ve decided that for my next blog (DPP) I won’t include a blog roll unless there’s a different way of doing this.

Action taken

I arranged another visit to Geoffrey. I intended to show him contact sheets of my edit, my tutor’s edit and the set of 6×4 prints of my second selection and then, after discussing them, to suggest he might choose his own 12. I also wanted to see if I could get another view of the houses in context, without cars, and maybe another with greener grass.

I had a really pleasant two hours with Geoffrey who was very interested in all the photographs (although not enthused about the portraits of himself that I’d  posted to him some time ago, thinking that he looked ‘so old’.) I recorded most of our conversation on my iPhone as well. After discussing both edits and  going through all the 6×4 prints Geoffrey then chose his own twelve. I must admit to maybe being over-encouraging that he should choose one of himself. I also mentioned about a shot from the window and he was all for that, although it would have to be through the net curtain downstairs as the rail was in a flimsy state for moving it.  I also had a tour upstairs and was able to photograph through an open window there. On the way back to my car I took more photographs of houses in context. Cars were still there and to cut them out gave a narrower view.  Here are the best of some of the photographs I took.

Templemere retakes ContactSheet-001 low resTemplemere retake ContactSheet-002 low res

I now had decisions to make about my own ‘final’ edit based on my tutor’s feedback, Geoffrey’s own views and the new images.  The ‘dialogue with Geoffrey has been very important to me in understanding the underlying approaches to the creation of Templemere and its continuing effect on its residents. I think I’ve been very fortunate in being able to engage in such a positive collaboration and with such an interesting and welcoming person. Not forgetting Bill and Brenda Boyd as well who facilitated my project so smoothly. I therefore want my final choice to embody something of their  attachment to Templemere,  whilst including my tutor’s suggestions but still being ‘mine’.

I chose my ‘final’ 12 but then got to wondering about differences between an original more spontaneous edit and then a subsequent one through the filter of other people’s feedback. There have been crossovers of course but any edits are the outcome of individual viewers’ perspectives. How much might I have lost my original response to Templemere? I decided to allow a night’s sleep to process everything. Woke up thinking about the woods and that I could do a ‘side’ series on them. I’ve done my own printing so far but it might be worth ordering a trial print on aluminium.  I put out a query on OCA Flickr and, having considered suggestions/advice I’ve went ahead and ordered one print on metallic paper. I actually like the effect but have heeded warnings on it not being a good idea to submit shiny prints for Assessment. I’ve now ordered a different type of ‘metallic’ photopaper from Permajet and will experiment with that in due course. This is a side series though so I must return to my Templemere edit which I decided not to change from the previous night.

Here are my final 12.


I decided that, here, it would be most useful for me to produce a book to contain captions and also a small amount of narrative. I prepared a proof copy and got some feedback and then re-edited a final copy. Here is a PDF (open it up in two page view)

Templemere final version reduced pdf

and here is the book on the Blurb site.

The book should arrive in time for me to send with assessment material as ‘supplementary’ work. I’ve been thinking a lot about narrative and I hope that the book can be understood in it’s own right.

Conclusion and thoughts for some continuing work

I enjoyed working on all aspects of the project.  I’ve been pleased as well that I have enough reasonable images to enable different edits. I had thought of recording an interview but that was more in passing, as in something to do for a future project, as I knew that I would have to do some concentrated learning on this.  I’m pleased though that my tutor’s feedback actually gave me the necessary push to go along with the recording and to talk more with Geoffrey about the photographs. I intend to create a book just for him as well, with his favourite images included and also to do one which will be just about Templemere itself.  This will enable me to include images I had to omit for the final 12 re-edit.  It really was hard to choose just 12! I have endeavoured to take into account my tutor’s comments on processing/colour whilst printing the definitive final 12, particularly with the colour green.

I still have the recording and will experiment with ways of linking it with some of the photographs in a video format.  I’ll add it here if I have time before assessment.  Now onward to getting everything ready to send off for Assessment and completing Study Visit write-ups etc before Assessment day..

30th September 2013

Assignment 5 : People and Place on Assignment

A Design for Living

1: The Brief

I have my first commission. My ‘client’ is a Lifestyle Magazine called Designs for Living.  The Magazine editor is interested in the way that housing developments designed in the 1960s have survived (or not) over time.  The whole series will cover post-war housing developments from brutalist/high rise to neo-Georgian and all in between. I have been asked to :-

  • Photograph and research ‘Templemere’ a private housing estate designed by the architect Eric Lyons and built by Span Developments in 1965 in Surrey. It was considered avant garde at the time and has just celebrated its 50th Anniversary.
  • Visit at a time when the celebrations have ceased and the estate is functioning on an everyday basis.
  • Provide photographs of the exterior and interior of one of more of the houses and the grounds of the estate.
  • Interview and photograph one of the original residents and gain their view on how the original design has met its purpose.
  • Obtain the views of other residents who moved in more recently.
  • Provide contact sheets of at least 50 jpegs processed from RAW and suggest the twelve that I consider best reflect the brief and show how far the development has provided A Design for Living.

2: Planning

  1. Do background reading/research before the first visit to gain a sense of the intended ethos of  Templemere.
  2. Check whether there were any original plans, older photographs or previous magazine articles about the Templemere and Span.
  3. Check whether Templemere has its own website as this provides another view on how the residents perceive the development.
  4. Contact one of the residents who is/has been very active in the Residents Society and arrange an initial visit to gain a sense of the environment.
  5. Ask for an introduction to a resident who has lived there since the houses were new; arrange an interview and gain permission to photograph the house interior.
  6. Interview any other resident available and ascertain their views on the estate.
  7. Photograph the interior of a house that has been updated as this might reflect any improvements considered necessary on the original building design.
  8. Photograph the grounds of Templemere.
  9. Ensure that I visit more than once so that I can photograph at different times of day.

3: Background Information

I did considerable reading around Eric Lyons, Span and Templemere and a fuller PDF summary of my notes can be accessed from the reference list . Eric Lyons was a visionary architect and a disciple of Walter Gropius, founder of the Bauhaus in Weimar, Germany in 1919, who came to England in 1934 .

Eric Lyons eventually joined forces as architect with Span Developments, created by Geoffrey Townsend. Their concept was to place people in communities with landscaped parkland that provided open spaces for community living. It was also intended that residents should take an active interest in the management of the estates through Residents Societies, “to make sure that the principles driving the project were propagated, and that distracting personalisations of shared space were prevented”.  Amongst other developments Lyons, with Span, created and began building a village, New Ash Green,  Kent that was  subsequently sold and completed by Bovis when Span ran into financial difficulties. There certainly wasn’t unanimous approval of  the new styles of modern building in the 1960s, with their large picture windows

 Kenneth Mahood cartoons from Punch magazine Design and architecture cartoons from Punch magazine by Ken Mahood
Reproduced with permission of Punch Limited., www.punch.co.uk

The house style is reminiscent of the ones created at Templemere and this cartoon appeared in a series by Ken Mahmoud in 1963 in Punch Magazine 

4: Templemere


Templemere has its own website here  that provides a wealth of information. The new estate was built within an C18th landscape that had been created by the Duke of Newcastle. It included a small wood and access to Broadwater Lake – also created by the Duke to mimic a river.

Previous Span developments had utilized courtyard gardens but it was realised that this would not work here as the houses had to match the C18th landscape. A new house type, L1, was created with an octagonal shape and linked/attached houses were staggered in outward facing groups with a central green area. 65 houses were built in 1963 and the estate won a Civic Trust award in 1964.

Eric Lyons gave a lecture to RIBA in 1968 where he explained that:-

It was not until we moved on to a beautiful site at Weybridge that we started having enough confidence to move away from the kind of external spaces we have been creating. Because of the enormous scale of some splendid cedar trees on the site I attempted to approach the problems of spatial organisation quite differently, to try and create less defined space. The space flows on like a water course and loses itself in all directions bubbling around the trees and clusters, going down into the wood and disappearing:

5: Meeting some of the Residents

I visited Templemere five times. I was concerned that this spread over in the school holidays and was worried that I may encounter problems if children were out playing, in terms of objections to photography etc. However this problem did not arise fortunately.

Two of the residents, Bill and Benda Boyd, spent some time with me on my initial visit, walking me round the estate and pointing out features of the grounds and house exteriors.  They drew my attention to the many old trees with a feature point being a 400 year old Cedar tree.


The wooded area by Broadwater Lake had been let go over the years but, 4/5 years ago, some of the younger residents got together and, with assistance from a specialist contractor, opened up the views. A special fund being created to pay for the work. They explained how the Residents Society operates. The management fee includes landscape maintenance of communal areas and painting of house exteriors on a rotational basis and the Residents Society organise several annual events as can be seen from their newsletter  when the  grassed community area in the centre becomes alive when residents gather. In the recent Queen’s Jubilee celebrations a walkway was built down to the woods by some of the men and opened with a ribbon. I was shown their names carved at the back of the post.

A few residents have made changes to exteriors, such as painting doors a different colour and the occasional installation of conservatories has created some controversy but, overall, I gained an impression of a very active Residents Society that is committed to maintaining a strong community spirit and upholding the original ethos of the development. I’m writing this advisedly because there will always people who want to make their own mark so there’s likely to be a continual process of discussion, negotiation and majority consensus. An Application is going to be made to have the estate deemed a conservation area and this should further protect the environment of the estate

I was told that the interiors of some houses have changed over the years apart from re-decorating. Some ground floors have become open plan; central heating has often been installed to replace the original more electrical underfloor heating and room has sometimes been found for a downstairs toilet. The houses seem to lend themselves well to this kind of adaptation and change.

Bill and Brenda enjoy living in Templemere. Bill likes their house for the large windows and light and Brenda likes the community feel – like a small village. She told me that 170 people came to the 50th Anniversary celebration earlier this year, including 30 former residents, which shows the hold that Templemere has over people.

b). Geoffrey Kemp

Bill and Brenda introduced me to Geoffrey and I had two visits with him. It was a real pleasure to talk with him, not to mention being introduced to a new delicacy – clotted cream and tawny orange marmalade on toast which was his late breakfast. He is very proud of his house and happy for me to have a look round and take photographs. He and his wife moved into Templemere as a newly married couple. He has been widowed for several years now but, at the age of 85,  wants to stay where he is for as long as possible. Geoffrey considers this estate to be one of only a few examples of 1960s domestic architecture that’s any good. – “I think he’s [Eric Lyons] the greatest domestic architect since the war”.

He said:

I like the house for its tremendous sense of space, plus the grounds, lakes and woods and I have lots of friends here who are very supportive and keep an eye on me.

At his age one snag is the lack of a downstairs loo, but he likes the original concept so much that nothing has been changed and he still uses the original underfloor heating. It’s rather expensive – he sometimes uses the convection from a 1964 floor heater – but he likes it. His house also retains much of the original furniture, including the original two-way unit constructed between the kitchen and dining area “which obviates the need for a sideboard” (from original specification sheet).

There was also a possibility to talk with another newer resident who has modernized and converted his downstairs area to fully open plan but the timing was tight so this did not happen. Still, the possibility is there if I return to do more photography at some point.

A fuller account of my talks with residents can be accessed in the reference list.

The Photographs

85 of the original RAW images were converted to jpegs.  From these I did an initial selection of 62 which I reduced to 34.

These fell into four approximate sets, Geoffrey’s house; residents; the houses/estate; the woodland.  I shared these (at 6×4 size) with the OCA Thames Valley group and it was really interesting to see how they started to put them together. Another advantage of doing this was that I could see from 6×4 prints images that would require some colour adjustment. My tutor will have access via Dropbox to digital contact sheets of all RAW files and the initial selection of 62 and I will send him printed contact sheets of the selection of 34 and A4 prints of my final 12.

I found it hard to pare it all down to 12. I wanted to avoid the look of an estate agent’s brochure and to bring Templemere to life somehow. I was drawn to the greenness of the woodland but then everything would probably have been too similar.  Some people might say that one piece of woodland is the same as another but there was a difference for me.  I experienced the woodland at Templemere as being a deeper green than my local Common – smaller and more intimate. Looking at my images I was reminded of Jem Southam’s work – see here and here   The wildness contrasted with the more careful organisation of the houses within their immediate environment, although the houses themselves were also shrouded in the landscape as they flowed along together in their groups – just as Eric Lyons described in his lecture in 1968.

I could have chosen just to concentrate on Geoffrey but then I wouldn’t be showing the environment he loves and has lived in for so many years.  He can no longer walk down into the woodland but I can show it to him. There were so many different edits I could do. I also started to wonder about sizes. For my tutor I’m preparing A4 prints with a border for handling. If I were to do it a different way – say for a small book then should the woodland be, say, full bleed so that the woodland flows off the page? Would it be better to have smaller images of Geoffrey and the interior of his house to show the scale of size compared with the buildings? It was certainly good to be aware of all those different possibilities but then I had to make a choice.

What came together for me was how the original concept has worked for 50 years and, in this particular instance fulfilled the vision of Eric Lyons and Span who aimed to create a particular kind of environment. Not a garden town, village or suburb but much smaller.  Facilities such as shops etc might not be included but they lie close by. Residents live close to their neighbours (indeed are linked with them in groups) However, they live in a house that, although not large in space, is filled with light. They have a small garden to enjoy with privacy,  yet are able to breathe and enjoy the environment around them as they step outside their front door. This small, self-organised community has the ability to support and offer friendship to its members as they grow older. Children can experience the magic of the woods relatively safely. I’m aware that all this might seem too fulsome but it works at Templemere because the residents, on the whole, are committed to such a concept.

I’ve been reading Yi-Fu Tuan’s book Space and Place: The Perspective of Experience (1977) as I’ve been pondering about sense of place for some time – see here .  There were two sentences that struck me as I thought about Templemere

Compared to space, place is a calm center of established values (p. 54)

When space feels thoroughly familiar to us it has become place (p. 73)

And, with this in mind, these are the 12 I have chosen.


The plan worked except for photographing the ultra-modernized interior of one of the houses, although that possibility is still available for me.  The variation in sunlight on different days meant sometimes the sky was blue and sometimes white. Is it best to have uniform skies or not?

I enjoyed the researching and tried very hard not to research too much at the expense of taking photographs. My research notes will be in my paper log, together with copies of the emails with Punch magazine and the signed permission note from Geoffrey. It was good to meet and talk with the Boyds and with Geoffrey Kemp. If I was going to do it all again then I would have experimented with video and/or audio work, but will come as I plan to learn this during my next Module.

I’m looking forward to my tutor’s feedback – guessing that he might do a re-edit again. I wish I could be sitting there whilst he’s doing it so he could talk to me about it. That’s one of the aspects that I’ve gained so much from with the OCA Thames Valley Group and it would be good to do it with my own tutor.

3rd September 2013



Barrett, C (2005) Spanning the Years in Grand Designs Magazine, March 2005.

Evans, P (2012) The 1960s Home, Shire Publications Ltd, Oxford

Harbison, R (2006) Exhibition, Architects Journal 30/11/2006

Simms, B (Ed) (2006) Eric Lyons & Span

Strike, J (2012)The Spirit of Span Housing, Strike Print, (Kindle ed)

Yi-Fu Tuan, (1977) Space and Place : The Perspective of Experience, University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis.

Fuller PDV versions of Research notes

Summary background of influences on Eric Lyons and Span Developments and Templemere

Talking with some of the Templemere residents v1

















Assignment 4 : Response to Tutor Feedback

Response to Tutor feedback on People & Place Assignment 4

As ever, my tutor gave me quick feedback which was much appreciated. Also, (as ever) it’s taken me a while to respond. It always takes me a while to absorb comments, particularly when my mind has moved ahead to what I’m doing next, and also, on this occasion, my tutor gave a different kind of feedback.

In his overall comments he wrote :

 Overall this has been a very interesting assignment to review. I found it very encouraging that you managed to pry your lens away from the very obviously photogenic cathedral and concentrate on the visitors. The sublime beauty of the cathedral is something that immediately grabs attention and I could have seen you easily put together a series involving images such as _MG_4168 and _MG_4126 which offer a very majestic view of the Cathedral interior. Instead you have concentrated on something most would totally ignore and conceptually this is very interesting. I am not sure you have been entirely successful; with following this through to the final edit but then that is the purpose of this feedback process once a student moves beyond requiring basic technical instruction.

I found the idea of focusing on the visitors to the cathedral space very interesting and the thoughtful poses in which you have captured them reflects somewhat the philosophical idea of how a space becomes a place in our psyche. To this end I feel you might be better served taking the edit one step further and removing the two detail photos and replacing them with two more observed portraits so that the series becomes about the visitors and their looks of contemplation. You then have the option of either keeping everyone at roughly the same distance from the camera, and hence size in the frame (see Struth’s Museum visitors work or the closer up view of diCorcia’s Heads I have referenced in the suggested reading), or varying it a bit..

My original choice was related to the concept of people being faced with their own mortality when they go into a Cathedral and my thinking had been to include two detail shots illustrating this concept of mortality (it’s just occurred to me that, of course, the people being /remembered/ are now immortal through the remembering).  However, maybe it isn’t necessary to show the detail shots given that I’ve explained the concept in my statement.

My tutor then queried , “…do all of the visitors need to be lost in thought? Is that the only thing people do when they go to the Cathedral?”. He referred to, for instance, a couple of other photographs showing people interacting with the space in a more tourist manner (yet not in clichéd smiling shots).

My thoughts around this are that, so far as my concept is concerned, the visitors do need to be lost in thought and they need to be large enough in the frame for this to be seen. The first image could possibly fit, especially if I cropped it but it doesn’t have the right mood for me somehow and additionally there is movement blur on the lady..

Tutor’s edit

My tutor then continued by taking me through his own edit from the contact sheets I’d submitted, to give me an alternative view that sticks to horizontal images as he felt that the series as a whole worked better in this format. He selected 22 from which he selected 12. These are photographs where I have more distance from my subjects, allowing them to become more part of the scene.

Tutor's 12

He thought there were many different options for a final 6 and chose those that he felt worked well together  “and feature a strong connection of the visitors staring up towards the architecture”

I realise this is a totally different edit than the one you have submitted but I felt this might be a useful exercise – seeing how someone completely detached from the work would edit the selection. If we compare this to the original edit you’ll see we have selected totally different images, which is quite surprising, and yet the overall feel of the series remains one of the solemn contemplation of the space by the visitors.

Here are my 6 again:-

Our selections are certainly different. I can see how my tutor’s edit places people in the Cathedral whilst showing more of the grandeur of its scale which is highlighted by the first image. My selection puts the visitors more in the foreground and captures their expressions. As I mentioned above, I do understand a different view concerning the appropriateness or not of the detail images.

In my Assignment 4 write-up I had also shown other selections – of Winchester itself and then the staff/volunteers in the Cathedral. What keeps coming into my mind now is a compilation storyboard of visitors as they enter the Cathedral; the scale of the building and the activity of the staff and volunteers within this. I would like to return to this so will add an addendum if I achieve it. (Assignment 5 awaits!).  What I am particularly pleased about is that I had sufficient quantity and quality of images this time for several different edits to be made and to capture my tutor’s interest.

Technical aspects

My tutor wrote that there were very few technical issues but reminded me to have fast enough shutter speeds to avoid camera shake and to be sure to straighten up any converging verticals or wobbly horizons. He also mentioned using smaller apertures so as to get both the people and the space in focus and to use a tripod when working with available light. I had mentioned in my write-up that I used a tripod wherever possible and also had the use of a T-SE lens on my final visit.  I didn’t make full use of it because I became drawn into the visitors again.  I certainly agree that this type of precision is very important in architectural work and using a T-SE lens certainly saves a lot of extra time in post-processing. I now also have Lightroom 5 which has a new straightening tool that cuts down on the editing process.

Suggested Reading

I had pondered covering this in a separate post but decided to keep it here as it’s a direct outcome of tutor feedback. These were the suggestions:-

Philip Lorca diCorcia’s ‘Heads’: also here

Peter Bialobrzeski

Simon Roberts

Alexander Gronsky

Luigi Ghirri

Robert Polidari

I have already written about Simon Roberts here  and here  as I find his work inspiring and this encouraged me to experiment (in a small way so far) with medium format work.  After reading this my tutor had suggested I look at Peter Bialobrzeski (b. 1961) who is a German documentary photographer.  In fact I also saw one of his photographs at Landmark: The Fields of Photography an Exhibition at Somerset House this year but had become so absorbed by Simon Roberts that I hadn’t paid so much attention to it.

Peter Bialobrzeski 

Peter Bialobrzeski has said that he advocates photography as a cultural practice as opposed to fine art, yet I think he combines both. His work is beautiful to my eyes (I make no apologies for saying that!) in terms of  subtle colour and composition whilst portraying the effects of human hands on the landscape. He documents ways in which people on the one hand want to hang onto the old and resist change, whilst on the other hand have the desire to demolish the existing urban landscape and create anew. I am at an early stage of exploring his images to see how he evokes thoughts, moods and feelings so will write more in a future post.

His books are expensive but I’ve ordered “Case Study Homes”  which is different from his usual dawn or dusk large format work. These are contraptions erected in a squatter camp near Manila and a take on the Case Study House Program initiated by Arts and Architecture magazine in 1945 in an effort to develop low-priced single-family homes. Looking at them makes me think of them as one step up from the ‘installations’ I photograph on the Common – see here .  Well – maybe two steps!

Alexander Gronsky 

Alexander Gronsky  was born in Tallin, Estonia (1980) and is based in Riga, Latvia. In some respects his work reminded me of that of Bialobrzeski.  I’m comparing here Gronsky’s “The Edge” with Bialobrzeski’s “Heimat” (“a personalized bit of visual and cultural history that goes beyond Germany’s dark past”.)  Both photographers utilize pale layers of sky and earth with darker figures in a landscape, although the former has his figures in the middle third, which provides balance,  whilst the latter has them in the bottom third, which gives one a sense of heaviness even in the delicacy of the composition. I am also drawn towards  the colour palette in Gronsky’s “Pastoral” (Moscow) and Bialobrzeski’s “The Raw and the Cooked” (the Asian megacity).

Philip-Lorca diCorcia’s “Heads”  (images on Google)

These images appeal to me with their gaze as if these people are simultaneously maintaining awareness of their surroundings whilst keeping an eye out on a busy area. There’s a similarity in the gazes I captured in the Cathedral but with a subtle difference which I think is to do with the quality of eye focus. Those in the cathedral appear more inwardly intense whereas those in the street are looking intently ahead. I could be imaging this of course to prove my point but this is how I’m perceiving the difference. Here’s a quote from the New York Times in 2001 :-

Unaware of the camera, they are absorbed in thought or gaze absently; they are how we act most of the time, walking down the street, in a crowd, focused on something or nothing. But enlarged and isolated, their expressions become riddles, intensely melodramatic and strangely touching.

Mr. diCorcia’s pictures remind us, among other things, that we are each our own little universe of secrets, and vulnerable. Good art makes you see the world differently, at least for a while, and after seeing Mr. diCorcia’s new ”Heads,” for the next few hours you won’t pass another person on the street in the same absent way.

(NY Times, Michael Kimmelman, 14 September 2001),

This work has been described as a departure from diCorcia’s usual staged scenes. .  A large strobe flashlight was fixed to scaffolding over a subway in Times Square and shots of passers-by were taken covertly, in daylight, with a small or easily concealed camera.  The series comprises 17 head and shoulder portraits chosen from 4000 photographs that were taken over a two year period. The comment has been made here  that as the heads emerge out of the background darkness, “The surroundings have been reduced and largely eliminated, thereby extracting the genre of portrait from the genre of street photography”.

The author goes on to discuss how street photography “stands in the tradition of impressionist and pointillist painting of urban subjects” and how, in the latter the choices of formal composition and tonal value determine the distribution of figures in the scene whereas in photography the conscious distribution of figures is, “replaced by a hit and miss series of shots from which prints are selected that are suitable to be organised under a common theme or project”. In thinking of my own photographs in the cathedral I wouldn’t say they were hit and miss overall.  Certainly, on the first visit, I photographed whatever I found interesting whilst keeping in mind “A sense of Place”. It was on looking through the photographs afterwards that a theme began to emerge and I followed this through on the third visit.

The author further comments that diCorcia,

aligns himself in a tradition that is less concerned with capturing a particular psychological moment than with, isolating, stochastically, through selection and rejection of shots, a certain attitude in the series that is emblematic for what is understood as the ‘human condition’. DiCorcia, “seems to play out an essentialist gesture – cast away what is ephemeral and home in on the face, the carrier of the riddle, the dearest surface that is so telling and at the same time strives to hid its tale.

There is also reference to the plays of Samuel Beckett, earlier work by Robert Frank on the New York underground and Beat Streuli’s work that also singles out the individual in motion – this time with sunlight.

I certainly hadn’t been consciously aware of diCorcia’s work – maybe I had absorbed it subliminally at some point – but I can certainly see how, in my own much smaller way, I had been working through a similar process.  My reading about “Heads” also highlighted another issue for me that I have referred to before which is the question of the ethics in this type of work.


In my post on Assignment 3 I had commented on my concerns about photographing inside a small church and whether I was respecting the space.  In Assignment 4, I wrote that I felt easier about this in this large Cathedral that welcomes so many visitors (many with cameras).  When I’d talked about the project one of my student colleagues had suggested obtaining photographs of people in prayer but I’d said that I didn’t want to do that because it would be too intrusive. Have I been intrusive though in taking photographs at a closer distance? My tutor chose his final edit from photographs taken further away where, certainly, faces can be seen but there is more anonymity in the distance.

There was an article in the New York Times in 2006   describing how Erno Nussenzweig, an Orthodox Jew saw his picture in the “Heads”exhibition catalogue in 2005. If the photograph is the one I think it is then it is actually a wonderful study. However, Mr Nussenzweig sued diCorcia and Pace gallery for exhibiting and publishing the photograph without permission and profiting financially from it. The suit was dismissed at the beginning of 2006 but reading about it reminded me again of issues of privacy and intrusion of personal space in a public place.


I have to admit that I was rather taken aback at first by my tutor’s very different edit of my work.  Photographing at shorter distances, and feeling more comfortable about this, had been a positive learning curve for me and so it was a surprise to see an edit based on images taken from further away. However it reinforced for me that there are as many ways of looking at a piece of work as the people looking.  Feeling more comfortable with closer work doesn’t mean I have to do it all the time either. For me it’s a case of being able to recognize the kind of images that work well together and I still have a lot to learn about editing.  This is where involvement in the Thames Valley Group and/or meeting in a focused way with other students, is invaluable for me as I gain the views of  people who aren’t emotionally attached to the work.

I’ve also been pleased as I wrote above, that I had sufficient number of interesting images for different edits to be made.

The suggestions for further reading/research have been absorbing to follow. I haven’t mentioned them here but I have also looked at Robert Polidori and Luigi Ghirri and have additional notes on all the photographers in my paper log.

27th July 2013


Suggested Reading


Philip Lorca diCorcia’s ‘Heads’:



Peter Bialobrzeski -http://www.bialobrzeski.de/

Simon Roberts -http://simoncroberts.com/

Alexander Gronsky -http://www.alexandergronsky.com/

Luigi Ghirri -http://www.americansuburbx.com/channels/l/luigi-ghirri

Robert Polidari -http://arthurrogergallery.com/artists/robert-polidori/

Other websites






http://www.nytimes.com/2001/09/14/arts/art-in-review-philip-lorca-dicorcia-heads.html [accessed 24/7/2013]

http://www.nytimes.com/2006/03/17/arts/17iht-lorca.html?_r=0 [accessed 27.07.2013]


People & Place Assignment 4 : A Sense of Place

People & Place Assignment 4 : A Sense of Place

A: The journey from Assignment 3

This journey has been a long one as Assignment 3 was completed at the end of January and my response to feedback on that is here . I still have to write-up the study Visit to the’ Klein/Moriyama’ Exhibition in January plus the informal visit to the ‘Cartier-Bresson and a Question of Colour’ Exhibition at Somerset House. In February I went solo to the ‘Light from the Middle East Exhibition’ at The V&A and the ‘Nadav Kander Exhibition’.  In March I went on an OCA organised talk by Tom Hunter in Dalston. I’m not happy about the delayed write-ups but, on the positive side I have  put together a new blog category on “Writing, art and Photographers” here  and have already written about Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road”, Robert Frank’s “The Americans”  and Elif Shafak, the Turkish author.  Shafak writes eloquently on language and culture and how storytelling can puncture holes in the cultural cocoons that we weave for ourselves.  I believe that photography can do the same.

Additionally, I’ve attended two meetings of the newly formed OCA Thames Valley Group which I’ve written about here . We’ve been fortunate to get some funding from , the OCA Student Organisation (OCASA) so that we can have OCA tutor Sharon Boothroyd in attendance. It makes such a difference to be able to meet with people for a more intense discussion on photography/photographers and share work in progress. The physical act of taking along prints and having others comment on them is so different – it’s as if I’m looking at my work through other eyes.

I’ve also begun to work with a medium format camera and written about that here  It’s the kind of photography I want to continue with.

All in all, reading back on this, I think I’ve achieved more than I thought I had so that’s good. I just need to curtail the extent of my reading and be more focused instead of reading anything and everything and then thinking I have to write about it all!

Onward now to Assignment 4.

B: Assignment Brief

To draw together all the various strands explored so far, including technical skills,; observation and reaction and “the underlying appreciation of what spaces and buildings mean for people who live in and among them.”  6 images as final selection but to choose from a strong selection of 12.

Imagine that I’m on assignment for an intelligent, thoughtful travel publication (not tourist promotion) that is demanding a considered, in-depth treatment. To me this means that I will look at the less good/mediocre as well as the positive aspects of the ‘place’. The aim is to show the character of the place and people who live there with as much visual variety as possible, resulting in 6 images as the final selection, chosen from a strong selection of 12.

I intended to follow my tutor’s suggestion of sticking to my 60D.

Choosing the Location

I had carried out the Projects/Exercises for this Part of the Module   in various locations in London and, at first, thought I might go back for a more in-depth look at the V&A which had the advantage of being indoors (good for the ongoing bad weather) and photography being allowed, unless otherwise indicated.  However I decided on Winchester  Cathedral for two reasons. Firstly, I’d been inspired by Peter Marlow’s book “The English Cathedral” (2012) and, secondly, I know Winchester reasonably well as I’ve worked there from time to time in the past.  I also knew that cameras and even tripods are allowed in the cathedral subject to special Services and events.


How is the character of a place conveyed visually? What is it that speaks to me and makes me want to return to a place? A purposefulness about the people – being busy and active; animated or looking relaxed and calm; at peace with what they’re doing; therefore people at work and play; singular or interacting. It doesn’t matter whether rich or poor but a caring for and about the environment. I look for a sense of history about a place as well and so Winchester appeals to me on all these levels.


I’ve already mentioned Peter Marlow.  I also looked at all the suggestions from my tutor  (see response to feedback on Assignment 3) – Simon Standing and Peter Fraser  seemed particularly relevant here . I also reminded myself of Thomas Struth’s work  that I’d seen at the Whitechapel Gallery  when I was studying AOP – all those groups of people visiting various types of places of worship  and being engaged in different ways of looking. I also have a book by Karen Knorr, Genii Loci (2002)  including her series on Connoisseurs  as I appreciate her images that combine elegant grandeur with historical reference  and a wry look at  how the connoisseurs behave.  Whilst at the second meeting of the OCA Thames Valley Group in April I was also recommended to look at Mark Power’s “MASS”   – the work he did in Poland and the way he took the same viewpoint in each church, paired with a close-up of its ‘slot’ where the congregation are encouraged to place money.

I have read Joel Smith’s book The Life and Death of Buildings: On Photography and Time (2011) which was an accompaniment to an Exhibition at Princeton University Art Museum in 2011. Smith writes:-

Photographs are made of time. …… Because they are made of time, photographs, in the plural, are good at reflecting change, whether of a person’s maturing face or of a building as it rises, or as it disappears
.….. buildings and photographs are concrete instances of social memory in action: they are, from corner to corner and from subcellar to roof peak, impure fragments of the churn of time”
(p. 14/16 2011)

I  acquired some old postcards in between my three visits to Winchester   because I was interested in how the Cathedral had been portrayed earlier for tourists and how my images might compare. Here are four of them.

Winchester Cathedral 1 Winchester Cathedral 2 Winchester Cathedral 3 Winchester Cathedral 4

There are two  from Francis Frith (a matt sepia)  which, I think, must be late C19th/early C20th. They are unused so no postage stamp to give a clue but they are similar to images I found on the Francis Frith website . The third is a Tuck’s glossy  monochrome of the C12th  black Tournai marble font, that could be 1930s,again no stamp. The fourth was posted in July 1967 (glossy b+w) and is of the Presbytery. I was interested that the Frith cards seem to represent the cathedral as almost a gothic ruin, aided by the fact that there is no seating which can serve as a reminder of people (it’s only in the modern era that people are no longer expected to always stand in Services).

Winchester and its Cathedral

_MG_4194 lr

In his welcome to the Guidebook Winchester Cathedral (2012) the Dean of Winchester, the Very Revd James Atwell, states that the Cathedral was “the Crown of Wessex that first united the English people in a single identity” and many of the early monarchs rest in an honoured place near the high altar. The original church was started on the orders of King  Cenwalh of Wessex  around 645 and the present building was begun in 1079 by Bishop Wakelin at the side of the early church (which was demolished), with some remodeling in the late C14th. It’s said to be the longest Cathedral in Europe and is also very narrow.  I won’t write more about its history and the famous people connected with it because it’s all summarized on the Cathedral’s website . The now ruined Wolvesey Castle was the Norman Bishop’s  palace , dating from 1110 and its chapel was incorporated into the new Palace, in the 1680s of which one wing survives. The Great Hall of Winchester  Castle (founded in 1067)  still stands nearby.  I’m mentioning this because it seems to me that those early Kings and Bishops lived side by side ruling their separate kingdoms – the temporal and the spiritual; the secular and the sacred.

The process of the assignment

The Cathedral sits within its own green space with its shop and refectory close by and the town streets a short distance away.  I visited on three separate days for the purpose of the assignment. The Cathedral staff and volunteers were most friendly and welcoming and it was good to wander around for a few hours on the first day to get a sense of the place and absorb the atmosphere, including light lunch in the refectory. On reviewing the photographs I thought it was insufficient though, too bitty to get a sense of people interacting there.

I thought maybe it would be better to go into the town so I returned on a very cold day to find shoppers, street musicians. I also became more aware of the immediate area round the cathedral;

Winchester people

going back into the Cathedral again is struck me how much it is like a small city on its own where everything is organised and in its place. The volunteers are friendly and helpful. They walk around and stop to chat to check that you’re okay and ask if you need any information. There are regular guided tours by trained guides.

Cathedral Staff:Volunteers

The clerics themselves seemed to drift by occasionally with an air of going somewhere on an important purpose.

I saw more clearly how this large cathedral is divided into separate areas – smaller chapels going off to one side and places where some people (presumably staff) gather to talk in twos and threes. There was a whole sense of business going on behind the scenes. I began to think how ideal it would be, if I became a well-known photographer, like Peter Marlow for instance – to be able to have access to these other areas of the building and staff to gain a real sense of how everything operates as a microcosm.

I came away, still unsatisfied somehow wanting to have more photographs of people, especially as, on this particular day there were few visitors.  I began to think maybe I should go somewhere else instead and had the idea of re-visiting Sunbury on Thames where I used to live.  I did this – again during the continuing bad weather – and wrote about it here .I still felt that pull towards Winchester though and so returned for the third time.

The editing and evaluation process

I used only my Canon 60D camera, mainly with zoom lens but I also used a wide angle Sigma 10-20mm and Canon TS-E  24mm lens – having acquired the latter just before I went to Winchester for the third time. The light in the cathedral was much kinder that that in the two churches I visited for Assignment 3. The problem this time was more in converging verticals and the perspective etc of a tall building – hence the desire to obtain a TS-E lens (shared with my husband so I could convince myself it was cost-effective!)..In total I took 291 photographs (I’m expecting, again, that my tutor will say it wasn’t enough!) From those I selected 110 to process and convert to a mix of jpegs –  the Cathedral, its precincts and the City.  On looking at these 112 it was the Cathedral and the people inside it that began to weave me a narrative.

I’ve mentioned above my impression of the cathedral as a world within itself, with its different groups and routines.  I also became much more aware of how it serves as a monument and memento mori.  Despite the welcome I don’t experience it really as a spiritual place – certainly not like St Nicholas Church near to me. The Cathedral is a more masculine place to me – tall, hard, lofty, angular – whereas St Nicholas is small, rounded, enclosing and maternal, more of a mother Church maybe retaining more sense of its earliest beginnings in a different religion and way of looking at the world. The Cathedral appears to me as a monument, certainly to the glory of God but also to the priests who built it, the powerful,  and its wealthy patrons. Its tombs and effigies reminded me of the verse

Stop ye travellers as you pass by
As you are now, so once was I

As I am now, soon you shall be –
Prepare yourself to follow me.

I had a discussion with one of the volunteers as to where this originated but neither of us could remember. I researched when I got home and discovered here that it’s an unknown epitaph from Tasmania, Australia. There are two monuments that explicitly represent this because they are cadaver effigies and the one most finely worked is this one of  Bishop Richard Fox.

_MG_4688 9x6 lr

I’m certainly not saying that there is a deadness about the Cathedral. There is a beauty of light, form, glass and glowing wood lovingly carved by expert craftsmen over the centuries.

_MG_4719 9x6 LR

However, with its contents it is a time machine with a life of its own. It embodies time in its fabric, like the photograph but more so as, together with its people it is a three dimensional object. Anonymous visitors become Everyman as they come face to face with their own mortality and, as they gaze for a long time.,they become like living statues. The crypt of the Cathedral also holds the sculpture Sound II (1986) by Antony Gormley .  I hadn’t realised until I watched a TV programme recently, that Gormley uses his own body for his sculptures. He makes himself into monuments of himself, as it were, in many different places and here he is in the cathedral also.

This idea of memento mori and the entranced gaze of visitors is something that stayed with me and informed my selection from the processed jpegs. I also discussed my ideas and shared some of the prints at the OCA Thames Valley Group meeting (link given above). It makes such a difference to have other people look at the physical prints and shuffle them around to form different narratives.

Working towards the final selection

110 jpegs became 52 as I discarded all except those inside the Cathedral. 52 then became 25 as I concentrated on the people; monuments; statues and tokens of remembrance.

The next selection of 12 included volunteers/staff as they worked.

Selection of 12

Reasons for exclusion:-

4391, 4662 and 4735 – reluctantly as they were focused on a task as opposed to ‘gazing in stillness’;  plus the colour palette was different.

4126 – the close-up of the head and hands seemed more appropriate than the full-length.

4160 – I had to exclude this because it was the only one in portrait format so it stood out as being different, I would have preferred it otherwise to  4111. My tutor had previously commented (Ass 3) where I had just one image in a different format. I could have justified its use because the effigy was gazing down but couldn’t work out how it could fit in the layout I wanted.

4168 – the colour palette was different.

The 6 selected for prints to be submitted

The order above is the order I envisaged for the layout and I have also printed a composite for my tutor to see. The prints are on Epson Premium semi-gloss photo paper. I will also be submitted printed contact sheets of the selections of 25 and 12 images plus some composites I did for the other themes I had discerned regarding the people of Winchester and the staff/volunteers in the Cathedral. These contact sheets have been printed on Permajet Matt Proofing paper – less long-lasting but with the advantage of giving a good representation plus cost-effectiveness. My tutor will also have access to a Dropbox folder containing all of these, plus full-size jpegs of the final 6 and contact sheets of the original 291 RAW images and the initial selection for jpegs.



What I set out to achieve/how I see the essential character of the place

As mentioned earlier it was Peter Marlow’s book on English cathedrals that initially sent me to Winchester.  I diverted along the way with a diversion to Sunbury and also a look in Winchester City.  Another book I’ve read is ’Townscape with Figures” by Richard Hoggart (1994). The book is actually about Farnham where he lived for some time but, despite the fact that it doesn’t have a Cathedral, Farnham does remind me of Winchester as it has retained old buildings, narrow streets and independent shops. Hoggart refers to writing one more book “which aims, by looking at a particular place and its people, to offer some ‘representative significance’: whilst also recognizing unique characteristics.”  and the tricky element of finding the right balance between the two.  He continues:

If the book so focused on the special nature of Farnham that it appealed to hardly anyone who did not live there or have a prior interest in the town then it would have failed …….because I had not made the place seem interesting, in its own right, to people who had not heard of it until they began to read”  (1994 Introduction xvii)

I think it’s easier with photographs, perhaps because photographs capture people’s attention in a different way, but this is what I’ve struggled with.  If I had been taking photographs with no end result in mind I think I would have been inclined to concentrate on the interior of the cathedral but not the people inside it.  This is why this particular assignment has been another learning experience for me.  I became more interested in the interactions and reactions of the people there.  The visitors behaved in such a different way.  I could see how they were being drawn into the atmosphere of this beautiful cathedral and behaving in similar ways.  In this sense I hope I have captured some ‘representative significance’ within the unique building that is this cathedral. I actually used a variety of focal lengths when I was photographing but notice that the six I’ve chosen are fairly similar. I used a tripod for the first 4 with a lower ISO. The selected photographs are also in landscape format – to me this seemed better suited to a wider view of People in Place. I have written about the layout I envisaged above.  If I had had more confidence I would have devised a more complicated slideshow where I could juxtapose the gazing visitors with images of the effigies as they faded in and out.  I intend to practise slideshow creation and, hopefully, do some work along these lines for Assignment 5.

It was hard to let go of some of the photographs of  staff/volunteers etc in my final selection but they didn’t fit my  emerging awareness of a theme that seemed important – that everyone who visits there is surrounded by reminders of their own mortality.

13th May 2013


Hoggart, R (1994) Townscape with Figures, Chatto & Windus, London

Knappett, G (ed) (2012) Winchester Cathedral, Pitkin Publishing, Andover.

Knorr, K (2002) Genii Loci, Black Dog Publishing Ltd, London

Marlow, P (2012) The English Cathedral, Merrell, UK

Smith, J (2011 )Tthe Life and Death of Buildings” On Photograph and Time, Yale University Press









Assignment 3 : Response to Tutor feedback


People & Place

Response to tutor feedback on Assignment 3

My tutor responded very quickly to this assignment and I’ve taken quite a long time pondering over the feedback.

Overall comments were that this was another good assignment. There were a few, small technical issues largely stemming from the use of  a few different cameras (which I was aware of at the time when post-processing and noted in my write-up) so advice was to select just one for the next assignment – the 60D. No particular problem re print quality except for some small sensor/high ISO noise problems in a few images (again due to using smaller cameras sometimes).

 1. The images

The Glasshouse, RHS Wisley



Although he thought that there are situations it might be appropriate (eg. if only indication of this being a managed habitat) My tutor found the metal barrier (bottom left) distracting and suggested I find a way of reframing this. He also referred to prominent noise and artefacts – probably from using the G12 and a high ISO

I particularly liked this viewpoint as it showed the lushness of the greenery; the sweep of the path, with people walking along, it plus the height of the glasshouse and the edge of the waterfall.  I was leaning over the rail already and it wouldn’t be possible to lean any further out.  I could actually see on my monitor that it looked over-sharp and yet the print itself seemed okay. There were some other images, taken on the second visit with the Canon 60D which had been possibles.

I was further along the balcony so the sweep of rail was avoided but there’s less greenery and no people.

That apart, my tutor commented, “I should also note quickly that I like how you have been thinking out of the box and photographed through the flowing water – this adds a good visual twist and variety to the overall selection from this space”

Lindley Library, RHS Wisley

Issues noted here included the small space where I had attempted to reveal more by including a detail shot of the toys. My tutor’s suggestion here was that I could have chosen one of the wider shots, “.. and then perhaps have made some more photos of details that seemed unique to this space”. He would have preferred me to wait for the people in the window to move in the second photo



Interestingly, I’d actually waited until they moved in front of the window because I was thinking to link mothers and children with the children’s facilities in the library itself.

My tutor thought that the increase in saturation in the toys photos had left it not fitting in well in terms of colour with the other two, “the idea that the toys are present is enough to point towards this being a space for children without having to increase saturation to ram the point home”



Point taken

7. desaturated

There was a helpful suggestion regarding white balance – to take one photograph with a colour neutral grey card in the frame, such as one by Michael Tapes http://michaeltapesdesign.com/whibal.html. This is where I feel doubly foolish because I actually do have one but I didn‘t have it with me at the time!.

One good point was that my tutor also wrote that he thought the compromise I made works.

The Churches

The ones from St. Nicholas were thought to be the more successful – “These little pieces of the puzzle allow the viewer to piece together the space and in some respects are reminiscent of the work of Peter Fraser”  http://www.peterfraser.net (see below). Reminder to be a little more careful with my technique on images like the roof image as it is not sharp.

He would have liked to see a slightly wider and clear shot of the drawings on the wall



I had ummed and aahed about this one as, again,  I’d wanted to show it in context.  There were tighter shots

wall painting

Unfortunately the sconce does get in the way.  The other aspect is that, to me, the wall paintings look much more interesting   appearing in the context of the whole building as , somehow, because they are fairly crude,  they provide a contrast to the beauty of the wood in the building.

My tutor  didn’t like the different aspect ratio of the crop of the altar cloth detail (square) pointing out that  he felt I  should, “ either crop everything the same or have a very good reason for cropping one photo from a series to a different aspect ratio”



My reasoning had been that I wanted to show a top to bottom view of the altar cloth (which I think is a lovely piece of needlework). I had problems there because light was flooding through a window at the side onto the wooden rail so in order to cut out as much of that as possible and still show the altar cloth top to bottom, I had to crop as I did. I realise I should have explained that but, even if I had, I guess my tutor would still have made the same comment regarding one different crop in the series.

There is a tighter shot. I originally excluded this because it shows a much smaller part of the cloth but it is in the same aspect ratio.

altar cloth detail

On a more positive note, my tutor did think, “the detail in one of the wider shots showing the font serving double duty as a brochure stand is particularly insightful into the modern church as well” .  I was also pleased that, whilst he didn’t think the church images are a success yet he thought they were a very good first go at a longer project.

Golf Club

I think I was damned by faint praise here because, whilst he thought they were technically probably the most accomplished (although there were some slightly unpleasant shadows), fine in a catalogue for the club for instance but not as interesting as other buildings visited. I agree.

Additional comments

Excellent blog; acknowledgement that I’d avoided use of ultra-wide lens; and some recommended looking/reading. My tutor also remarked that most of the work I’d linked to on my blog was made on medium or large format cameras. I’ve increasingly come to realise that much of the photography I appreciate has been created on larger format cameras and I have also noted more use of these in Exhibitions. A recent visit to the Landscape Exhibition at Somerset House has inspired me to make more of an effort to practise with the medium format film camera I have acquired.

2. Some suggested photographers/reading 

John Gossage –Berlin in the time of the wall – http://www.stephendaitergallery.com/dynamic/exhibit_display.asp?ExhibitID=65

Marc Wilson- http://marcwilson.co.uk/the-last-stand/

Simon Standing- http://www.simonstanding.co.uk/Portfolio/Portfolio.html (PhD will be most relevant but everything should be of interest)

Peter Marlow- The English Cathedral http://www.magnumphotos.com/C.aspx?VP3=SearchResult&ALID=2K1HRGTOBSJ

Simon Norfolk- http://www.simonnorfolk.com/pop.html (Specifically look at For Most of it I have no words: Genocide, Landscape, Memory)

Joel Sternfeld- http://www.luhringaugustine.com/artists/joel-sternfeld/?tag=On%20this%20Site

John Kippin- http://johnkippin.com/archive/nostalagia-for-the-future.php

John Riddy – http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artists/john-riddy-11957

Steffi Klenz – http://www.steffiklenz.co.uk/

Peter Fraser – http://www.peterfraser.net/

I looked at all of them but these are the ones that had particular impact for me:

John Gossage:  this b&w series began when Gossage, an American,  went on a trip  to Berlin  to exhibit photographs and run a workshop.  He ended up making further trips into the early 90s,  and created a survey of The Wall that was both historical and contemporary.  It struck me how images of small details and absence of people  can  still evoke such a sense of place and, as the description on the web site comments, tell a story, “in images that are as much metaphorical and emotive as they are politically accurate and historically mindful”.

Marc Wilson: Beautifully captured colour images of remains of military defence installations that, to me, have a dignified loneliness about them.

Simon Norfolk:  Places of genocides. The b&w images adding to that sense of gravity, damage and loss.

Simon Standing:  Here, as suggested, I looked at Dr Standing’s PhD project.  It concerned “The Architectural Expression of Anglican Rituals as Disseminated Through a Photographic Enquiry of Six Devon Churches” . I found this very interesting in terms of how he built his composite images and used polaroid and film tests. These were wider viewpoints but I also looked at some of his other work on churches where he used detail images to, again, evoke that historical sense of people and place.

Peter Marlow:  I looked at Peter Marlow earlier in the Module in terms of environmental portraiture but, this time, I was looking at his work on English cathedrals.  It certainly put my attempts at Wisley and St Nicholas into perspective (although I did note some near- clipped highlights)!  The photographs looked so imposing that I bought the book.  The book is beautifully large with superb colour prints and includes some of Marlow’s notes on how he went about the project.  It was easy to imagine him up a step-ladder with his large camera, just as the sun came up to cast the right light within the interior of each cathedral – not to mention the cleaners who were determined to start their work at the right time and so switched on the lights! There are also details in an appendix outlining the histories of all the cathedrals.  I just hadn’t realised that they weren’t all built from scratch, as I’d thought, but some of them developed into cathedrals from previous Parish Churches.

I found the book so inspiring, as did my husband,  that we both went off to Winchester to photograph the cathedral there and I’ll write more about that when I record work towards Assignment 4. Suffice it to say that, as a result of this first visit, my husband decided he must have a TSE lens and, following this and further discussions, he also obtained a Sinar camera.  I’m not going near the Sinar (apart from to admire it and pose for it) until I’ve practised with the TSE lens and that’s to come.

Peter Fraser:  He took up an artist’s residency at Oxford University in 2006 and, in reading about the lead up to this, I was interested in the way he wrote about a time when he was in hospital recovering from Hepatitis and Dysentery ,walked to a courtyard and was dazzled by the  Saharan sunshine falling upon some Bougainvillaea trees.,

“Standing in that doorway, each flower appeared as a crucible in which a perpetual struggle was taking place, between the impossible beauty of the world and its irrefutable fact…….Additionally over the passing years, it has become clear that by photographing a stationary subject in a particularly intense way ….. there is potential for the photograph to allude not only to time at the moment of exposure, but to time before and even time to come”

I wish I had known about Peter Fraser before I started Assignment 3 because he has so clearly detailed what I was aiming for.  I’ve only just started on that path and the struggle for me is not only to get to grips with technical aspects  but how to nurture that inner vision that can focus upon the mood and viewpoint I need to convey.

Areas for further work

I need to more scrupulous at checking noise on my images and to avoid high ISOs on smaller cameras. For the next assignment I intend to just use  my 60D. I also intend to show more commitment to practising using my medium format film camera – I must admit here that it’s the fact of not being able to see results quickly that’s held me back.

15th April 2013


Marlow, P (2012) The English Cathedral, Merrell, UK

People & Place : Assignment 3 – Buildings in Use


People & Place Part Three : Buildings and spaces

Assignment 3 : Buildings in use

A: Preamble

People & Place has been a very challenging module for me and there have frequently been times when I’ve wished I’d chosen something different. This assignment has proved the most difficult so far. I have photographed buildings from both outside and inside but only occasionally.  So, just as I had to leap over the stream to do portraits, I’ve now had to negotiate those slippery, algae covered, stepping stones over the river to get to the buildings on the other side. There have been times when I’ve nearly fallen off which is why this assignment has taken me so long to do.

Since my last Assignment, submitted in September, and in the midst of, again,  having my artistic boundaries challenged, I’ve also been on three OCA Study Visits; participated in the OCA Brighton Weekend,  been on an informal group visit to Somerset House and on my own to see the Nadav Kander Exhibition. So far, I’ve only written-up one of these (Prix Pictet )  for my blog. The main reason for the tardiness here is that I tend to get interested in particular photographers whose work I’ve viewed and then research them further. I’m hoping to catch up as quickly as possible though once Assignment 3 is complete. I’ve also started up a Personal Projects category on my blog. So far I’ve written up my interests in People and Traces,  Infrared work; and Pylons. Additionally I’ve got into the habit of  writing to photographers and asking if I may download images from their websites for my blog. Most of them have responded very positively which I’ve much appreciated.

B: Preparation for the Assignment

The Projects/Exercises asked us to show how buildings and other man-made spaces are used and how people interact with them – how these spaces work for the people who use them (function) and how spaces change with light. I’ve written this up, together with advice accessed on photographing interiors and how some other photographers have viewed interiors  here.  The  Projects/Exercises seemed short but I took a long time in thinking around them. The major experience for me here concerned the phenomenology of architecture and spaces – how we human beings think and feel about spaces we inhabit and form attachments to them. Second to that was how can I show some of this personal connection in my own images.

C: The Assignment itself

  • Choose 5 or 6 buildings and for each produce between two and four images that describe effectively and attractively the way in which these spaces are used.
  • Conduct some research beforehand so as to have a good understanding of how and why it was designed in the way it is and an opinion on its effectiveness as a usable space
  • Write a short statement demonstrating understanding of the function of each building, the way it was designed to achieve that, and how well you believe it succeeds.
  • In addition, describe briefly how you initially set about showing the important features of each building photographically, and what you learned during the course of shooting the assignment.

From the start I wanted to have some kind of theme to link the buildings together, particularly as it is suggested that we choose a variety of buildings in terms of size, shape and use. Apart from the Muslim Burial Ground in Woking there is another place I feel especially drawn to which is St. Nicholas Church in Pyrford, situated in an area which is rich in history. When I was working I often drove down the hill past the Church, along a narrow lane which took me past Pyrford Golf Club before going over the bridge on the Wey Navigation Canal From there I travelled through Wisley and thence past the RHS Gardens, Wisley to reach the A3. I decided that I would use this route for the Assignment and visit all these places.

I also wanted to include a business complex in Wisley that is based in converted farm buildings next to the Church there. I wanted to see how use was made of the open- space offices. I couldn’t just walk in there due to electronic security gates so I emailed and then phoned the manager of one of the companies.  He seemed willing at first but expressed concern about potential disruption with equipment etc.  He said he would speak to one of his higher managers and get back to me. In the meantime, I emailed him again to reassure him that I would only be there for a short time (the length to be of his choosing) and would be using minimal equipment. I also provided copies of my student card and a letter from OCA confirming that I am a student, plus a link to the OCA website.  Unfortunately he did not get back to me and so I decided to leave it at that as I didn’t want to be seen to be harassing him..

The area lies within the Parish of Wisley-with-Pyrford.  Both villages were Saxon manors (which mostly remained under different ownership) although the parishes were united in 1631. Wisley Church and St Nicholas at Pyrford are on the line of a mediaeval track, the remains of which can be seen in the pathway at the west of St Nicholas’ church. The two churches have preserved three of their twelve consecration crosses as well as fragments of the Norman paintings which once covered their walls. (Lewin, S. p. 4).  These two churches, together with the church of St Mary at Farleigh near Croydon are the three in the county of Surrey that have survived from Norman times as complete buildings of one period.

The Wisley estate (of which only a small part was cultivated as a garden)  was presented to the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) in 1903, in trust for its perpetual use,  by  Sir Thomas Hanbury, a wealthy Quaker. 

The buildings

I’ll give further relevant information as I describe each building and am including an exterior shot for each to show the context – but these will not be submitted as assignment images..  In terms of cameras I used a DSLR (Canon 60D), Fuji EX-1 CSC with zoom lens and a Canon G12. I used a tripod where possible/appropriate. I always shoot in RAW.  I decided to use auto White Balance to allow for mixed lighting on the basis that I could correct in processing. I’d previously found that auto white balance seemed much more sensitive to light and producing more variation than just using camera pre-sets.

In processing I made initial selections (RAW) with 1*, second selection (converted to Jpeg) by 2* and used a red label to select the final versions I also used a yellow label to select the external view I wanted to use for context. My tutor will be provided with digital versions of all images worked with; initial; second, and final selections, plus printed contacts sheets of second selections, from which I chose the final  19 images.

1:   The Glasshouse , RHS Wisley

_MG_3833 lr

The structure was designed by the architect Peter van de Toorn Vrijthoff (Colborn & Terry, 2007) in conjunction with landscape designer Tom Stuart-Smith. It had to be designed to provide maximum light through the glazing whilst being strong enough to withstand severe weather. The glasshouse needs to keep plants warm on cold winter nights but not overheat during summer – and needs to be warmed or cooled with minimal use of energy.   It has fuggers in the roof to maintain correct humidity and retractable sunblinds which double as heat-conserving thermal screens, with sources of artificial light to assist winter growth. It was designed to provide as authentic an experience as possible in each of its 3 interlinked climatic zones – dry temperate and moist temperate (adjacent in the main area) and a tropical zone overlooking the lake at the front.  The lake itself acts as a reservoir in case of drought.

There are no barriers or doors to pass through and pathways and naturalistic landscaping enhance the atmosphere by showing distinct transitions between the zones.   There is one main pathway in a figure of eight that leads you around the structure as you follow the contours of rocky outcrops and gently sloping gradients, with raised viewing platforms. A focal point inside is the temperate waterfall, in fact without it one would be able to view the entire floor area. The Glasshouse also has an interactive root-zone. Another area leads to a walkway to the linked teaching area.

I’ve been there several times before.  It’s a good feeling to enter such a different space – wide, airy and full of greenness and the scent of flowers. It’s peaceful, never seems crowded. They have butterflies in the tropical zone for several weeks starting in January – weather hasn’t allowed a visit yet this year. They’re not easy to photograph though. It depends on how much moisture is in the air at any particular time. I think the whole design works excellently.  It wasn’t until I went in there, looking with different eyes, that I appreciated how it has all been put together. The structure and design are all focused to enable the visitor to experience the ‘outside’ inside.  It’s accessible to all ages and wheelchair friendly.

When photographing I had to allow for the dynamic range between the brightness of the light coming through the roof and the dark greenness inside.  I visited twice. The first time the sky was almost white and so I went again the moment I saw a blue sky.

I wanted to find a way to show the height of the space and the way in which the different areas had been created. For this I went on the walkway which leads over the top of the waterfall.  As I walked back down the slope I shot through the waterfall. The sight of people beyond the water always pleases me and I’ve noticed that many other people spend time there. Other shots were at ground level. When I went into the rootzone I had my tripod at a very low height so that I could gain a childs-eye viewpoint. I went into the tropical zone but my lens immediately misted over. One thing I noticed though was that the lift is camouflaged so that it fits in with the plants and I did take a quick couple of shots.

Images 1-4

I chose an initial selection of  36 and a second selection of 17, from which I chose 4 plus one of the exterior for context. My intention was to show the height of the structure; how the waterfall feature intersects the space and creates a topography.

As I worked through my choices and printed them I started to think I’d made the wrong choices because really, I think. People visit the Glasshouse for that overwhelming sense of warm greeness.  I want to show, though,  that there are other areas of interest.

2: Lindley Library, RHS,Wisley

Parish of Pyrford and Wisley_50 lr

I hadn’t been able to find information about the architect of the Glasshouse so went into the library which is situated so that you walk past it on your way to the exit.

Anyone can access the library and look for information there and, if you are an RHS member you can also borrow books. The librarian was very helpful and found the book referenced below. It isn’t a large library but is very comfortable with almost a country house feel. Curtained windows overlook the Garden and botanical paintings are on the walls. There are laptop outlets (with PCs available) The book shelves are along one wall whilst the study areas are on the garden wall, with table lamps; Lloyd loom type cushioned- chairs and laptop outlets, plus some PCs available. One of the tables has a selection of children’s toys, books and drawing materials to keep children happy whilst parents do their research and reading.  It’s obvious that considerable thought has been given to providing a comfortable and relatively studious atmosphere yet with some diversion for young children.

I didn’t think it would be appropriate to take out my large camera and so I used my Canon G12 after asking permission to take some photographs.  The major problem was the mix of lighting – daylight from the windows, plus fluorescent ceiling lights and the tungsten table lamps.3

I chose 16 images and then 13 as converted jpeg, from which I chose 2 plus one of the exterior for context .

Images 5-7

Images 5 and 6 don’t capture the colours entirely correctly and adjusting white balance was difficult. I think auto to begin with was the best choice in view of the mixed lighting. I adjusted warmth and colour in PS also using Nik Viveza for some finer adjustments and added more saturation to the toys in No. 7 because bright colours are more attractive to children.

5:  Wisley Church 


This is a very small church but, even so, I’m surprised that there is one at all in Wisley as the place seems very much a road on the way from one place to another.  It doesn’t have a village hall or shop  and the nearest pub, the Anchor, is just outside Wisley. The information I have states that the village never consisted of more than a few farms and cottages (it’s hardly larger now) but its church was more important  than its sister church in Pyrford. (Lewin & Blatch). Foundations of an earlier Saxon chapel (mentioned in the Domesday Book) were uncovered under the present building in 1903, but it is basically Norman work of the mid-12th century.

The stone on the exterior is undressed, apart from the rough flint C19th century vestry exterior and, because of this, of has had to be covered over with a rendering of sand mixed with lime. A hard form of chalkstone was used for the interior and small flints can still be seen embedded therein.  There are many traces of original wall-paintings and three consecration crosses remain. The porch is C17th with a saw-toothed or notched bargeboard. A later brick base has been inserted but much of the timber framing appears to be original (Lewin & Blatch p.4).

I have visited this church once before. To me it seems a simple church without show or finery, more homely somehow than even its sister church St Nicholas in Pyrford.  It has a peaceful air to me (as a non-believer) providing a space for quiet reflection and contemplation without distractions.

I visited the church twice for the purpose of the assignment – the second time when the day was brighter and the sky more blue. The major difficulty inside was due to the high dynamic range of the light.  This is a low -built church and light falls through the windows into the darker interior in such a way that it can’t be avoided, even low-down.

From an initial choice of 40 I reduced this to 14 converted as jpeg  and finally selected 4.  plus two of the outside for context.

Images 8-11

4:  Pyrford Golf Club

_MG_4020 lr

This club was established in 1993 so is relatively new.  It was designed by former Ryder Cup Players Peter Alliss and Clive Clark and they were involved in the building of quite a few new clubs in Surrey around the same time. Plans first went before Woking Borough Council in October 1990. I remember there was continuing  opposition from some of the nearby local residents who were concerned about the potential increase in traffic plus possible loss of freedom to walk on public footpaths.

Thinking about my ‘road trip’ I plucked up courage and phoned the current Manager, Nick Hughes, explaining I was a photography student, and asking if I could take some photographs. He said yes almost before I’d explained and was very welcoming, telling me to photograph whatever I liked and maybe let him have some of the good ones.

This is a modern clubhouse that, I think, is built to a general specification along the lines of the need for it to merge with a landscape and not be over-imposing in height (pre-existing pylons have been incorporated into the design).  The landscaping of the course/s is very important because it has to provide challenge and variety.  I’ve been told that this particular course is definitely a challenging one in the way it has been designed.

Thinking about the basic ‘function’ of a clubhouse, this would be to provide somewhere for members to change clothes; relax and socialize after a game and to have some refreshment. There also needs to be a shop to buy the various needed accessories and clothing. This is not a men only Club and so there needs to be separate changing facilities for women members.  I haven’t been in that many golf clubs but I still have the impression of them being a place for men rather than women, with fairly dark walls and furniture. I was therefore particularly interested in how women were catered for. I spent some time in the ladies locker room; wandered in and out of the shop, and spent some time in the bar. The weather was very bad so there was hardly anyone playing golf outside but a few members were in the bar having breakfast and generally chatting. I had a nice conversation as well with the club captain who’d come over to ask what I was doing.

I think the Club does fulfil its function although it still has more of a masculine feel, despite the deep pink seating. This is probably due to the heaviness of the colours. The Ladies locker room has a softer feel with flowers and lighter wooden fitments.

From an initial selection of 40 I processed a further selection of 22 as jpegs and chose 4, plus 1 for exterior view.

Images 12-15

I used a remote speedlite flash for Image 13 that worked reasonably well against the rather dim overhead lighting.  I’m not happy at all with 14 and 15. I toyed with the idea of not submitting them but decided against this.  I need to learn from my mistakes and show my tutor how it affected the prints.  Obviously the mixed lighting was a real issue again and with No. 15 there was the additional problem of light from the TV. Again – I adjusted individual colours.

5:  St Nicholas Church, Pyrford 


This Church is a Grade I listed building. I’ve read that it was completely re-built between  1140-60 under the auspices of Westminster Abbey so presumably it was built upon the foundations of an earlier Saxon church.  The situation of the church, in a circular churchyard on the top of a hillock, indicates that it was a pagan holy place which was adapted by the early Christians. (Lewin, S, p.1).

Wall paintings

that were part of the original decorative scheme were whitewashed over by Protestant zealots in the reign of Edward VI (1547-53) but some remains of them were re-discovered during a sensitive restoration scheme in 1868-70. There are two sets, one painted over the other. The first series (dating from around 1140) shows scenes from Christ’s passion. The second series (from around 1220)) is known as a psychomachia, a battle between virtues and vices. The details are not very clear, but the painting is represented by the mysterious procession of armed men and a group of horsemen (A. Crosby, (2003) p.19) Crosby also quotes from the diaries of an Arthur Mumby of Wheelers Farm who described the work in progress, The interior was a heap of rubbish; all the old pews and seats gone or waiting rearrangement. A few scraps of old fresco, scraped bare, showed on the walls.” (ibid p. 20).

I’ve visited this Church many times over the past few years and have puzzled over its attraction for me.  I think that a part of it is that I can sit there and feel surrounded by a great sense of history.  There’s no pomp and splendour, glittering gold and noble tombs. This space and its surroundings have been considered ‘holy’ for centuries. What would people have felt/seen in pagan times? I put myself in the situation of someone sitting there in the 1200s during a service – the wall paintings might be viewed as a distraction but they were there to convey religious ‘messages’ to a mainly illiterate population.

Now, as I sit there, light pours through the low windows. I see flashes of colour from the bright hassocks. My eye catches the faint wall-paintings and is then drawn to the altar – its tapestry cover with Norman style figures. Everything delights my eyes and I feel at peace. This is what I’ve attempted to show in the images.

I chose an initial 20 images from which I selected 16 to convert to jpeg, and then a final 4, plus 2 for exterior context.

Images 16-19

Clipped highlights and whited windows really bothered me.  Combining different exposure doesn’t seem to work with such a high dynamic range as in this church. I suppose if I could ask permission to go at night and then use my own lighting I might be able to resolve this for myself.  Yet as I’ve researched on the internet and seen interior photographs they’re often there as well.  Am I being too hard on myself?


Technical aspects

I have referred to these when discussing the individual buildings and have also provided my tutor with a chart of camera settings used in my final selection. I used a tripod wherever possible, apart from in the Library and Golf Club. It wasn’t always possible in the churches because of narrowness of pews etc where I wanted to get close to something but I rested my camera on top of pews or other available flat surfaces.

Using auto white-balance usually seems to work well but not with mixed lighting.  In a perfect world I could switch off lights, mask windows etc but that wasn’t possible with this assignment. I have had to acknowledge that I need to get used to doing a custom white-balance in camera in such situations and not rely on post-processing. I also intend to get more to grips with adjustment layers in Photoshop and all the adjustments that Lightroom 4 offers.

Personal aspects

I started off not wanting to do this part of the course at all but gradually found myself drawn into the buildings;  how their space  is used and the atmosphere engendered.  I’ve also been thinking about particular elements that made me choose these specific buildings – being able to enjoy ‘nature’ whilst being protected from the elements; feeling in tune with history and that sense of being in a timeline; early memories of being a child lost in books and stories and the wonders of the public library.

There are three books that have been shaping my thoughts around this and I intend to write more on this in another blog post. Briefly the books are Gaston Bachelard, The Poetics of Space. (1958); Simon Schama  Landscape & Memory(1995) and Joel Smith The Life and death of Buildings: On Photography and Time (2011).  Smith writes that “Buildings embody durational time” (p. 13) and that photographs are made of time, “Whatever a photograph represents, it represents in time; it represents a thing by representing a state of the thing” (p.14) they project the past. I was reminded of this looking at the drawings and photographs of St Nicholas Church taken at different time periods in Crosby’s book on the history of Woking.

Whilst Schama writes about the way in which landscapes embody culture and folk memories, Bachelard  muses upon the way in which we bring our phenomenological experiences of our earliest homes and shelters into our dreams and memories  and how, “…..the house we were born in is physically inscribed in us” (p. 14).  I realise that this has implications in terms of how spaces are designed and created in buildings and how we interact with our present surroundings.  Maybe an example of this is the way I react to St Nicholas’ Church. It has an almost maternal feel about the way it is designed with it curved roof and I have strong memories also of the dark wood and enclosing spaces in the house where I was born. Schama also writes of how the  primitive grove of trees became translated into gothic churches. In the case of St Nicholas and Wisley churches we have the much earlier version where the trees have been brought into the church in the form of the roof timbers.

29th January 2013


Bachelard, G, (1958) The Poetics of Space, Beacon Press, Boston [1994 Ed.]

Colborn N & Perry, C (2007) A Garden under Class: The Glasshouse RHS London

Crosby, A (2003)  A History of Woking Phillimore & Co. Ltd., Chichester, UK

Lewin,S & Blatch, M (1987) Wisley Chuch – Short History and Church Guide Printed pamphlet

Lewin, S (d unknown) A Short History of Pyrford and Wisley Printed pamphlet

Schama, S (1995) Landscape and Memory, HarperCollins Publishers, London

Smith, J (2011) The Life and Death of Buildings: On Photography and Time, Yale University Press










Assignment 2 : People and Activity – Response to tutor Feedback

People & Place

Assignment 2 : Response to tutor feedback

This is one comment I’m definitely going to hold on to, to keep me motivated :

 Overall this has been a successful assignment” ….I’m pleased with you getting out there with your camera and focusing on groups of people whom you don’t know.

Other positives were that there were some good prints of my final edit and the skin tones look much more natural than in Assignment 1. It was good to go through my editing process in the write-up. From the work shown in the assignment I’m likely to be successful in the formal assessment.

Suggestions on achieving a collaborative focus

I had been chatting with subjects, striking up a rapport, letting them know my motives and evincing trust so that they allow me to go about making  something interesting. However, I had commented on lack of head and shoulder shots in this series (as opposed to my alternative series at the station in Wirksworth) and the series could have benefited from a good character portrait. “…….the full-length shots suffer a little from seemingly not knowing what they want to be, action or posed”. My tutor suggests two very accurate reasons for this – not taking enough time when making them, plus a desire not to inconvenience them too much.  The suggestion here is that once I’ve got them chatting I should ask them to stand where I want, pose them slightly and then make the picture, which should only take 30 seconds to a minute and so not inconvenience them to much.

Number of images

Taking 137 photographs over the weekend is not enough given that I was shooting in reportage style. More, possibly double this would allow more choices.  I think what’s happening here is that I’ve been influenced by all those articles/comments which say that if you’re making good photographs you shouldn’t need to take a lot.  I realise I’m really putting the cart before the horse here because my photographs aren’t good enough for that attitude yet so I’ll just have to keep on taking lots of them!

My editing process

The editing lets me down a bit from a professional standpoint. Two of the photographs are basically repeats. The young man on the shed is in the group photograph and then I have two close-ups of him doing the same activity (laying the roof). It would have been better to have left the first one in my contact sheets (where he semi-posed and smiled).  In fact, I was going to leave it and only included it at the end because I had to exclude one of another subject wasn’t good enough.   What I could have done was to wait until later and take a shot of the young man when he was used to my presence and doing something else.

Another man in the group shot is hoeing and then I have him doing the same thing in an individual shot. My tutor doesn’t see that as a problem as they are very different photographs but  he comments that if I was doing a piece for a local magazine or paper then they wouldn’t want to run two pictures the same, but would want both to be shot so they could choose one of them.  Do you know that’s something I was thinking during the editing process – “If only I could just give the contact sheets over to someone and then they could choose what they want – like the way people choose their wedding photographs!” I enjoyed the editing process but it was fraught.  Of course, if I’d taken more photographs then at least I would have had more to choose from that were, hopefully, ‘good enough’.

My learning log/blog

Excellent overall. My write-up of the alternative assignment shows I’m going the extra mile. Suggestion that I include more links to what I’m reading and viewing.  I’m aware that I hadn’t been doing as much  reading (due to my sinking into gloom at the beginning) but that has increased in past weeks. In fact I’m beginning to lose track slightly on recent books I’ve bought and ordered from the library so the pile is growing.  Also I had been in the habit of doing hyperlinks and references within the body of the write-ups and then listing all the references again at the end.  I’d stopped doing the latter but will go back and amend that.  I also have a separate ‘page’  which for some reason appears at the bottom right of my blog which is “Bibliography and References” so I can keep overall track of reading etc.  Having read my tutor’s feedback I realise I haven’t updated it at all so that will have to be done. I’m not too sure about including all the website links I’ve followed for posts there though. I think I’ll ask a tutor question on the OCA site.

Suggested reading/viewing

Lots of suggestions here on ‘People at Work’ ; “People and Gardens” and “People in Buildings”( remembering the next assignment). These are  – Keith Arnatt,; Lee Friedlander; Fay Godwin; John Darwell and  Stephen Gill. I’ve accessed all of sites once already – now need to go back and look in more depth.

Also suggestion to look at Magnum Contact Sheets, Thames & Hudson to look at how the best photographers ‘work’ a scene. This is on order from the library, in view of the high cost of buying. If I like it sufficiently it can always go on my Christmas present list!

Action points

  • Continue to work on my collaborative process
  • Take more time to set things up
  • Take more photographs overall for a series
  • Remember to get variety of activity in photographs – as in the case of a group shot followed by an individual one.
  • Make some notes for my paper log on the photographer series I’ve been linked to – plus I can safely download examples without breaching copyright.
  • Update my ‘Bibliography and references” list on Pages in my blog.

2nd October 2012

Assignment 2 : People and Activity

Assignment 2 : People and Activity

Review of progress since Assignment 1

It feels as if quite a lot has happened but I’ve progressed very slowly.  I completed Assignment 1 back in June but then got stuck.  Looking back now, it was partly because I had this block about photographing people (particularly for ‘portraits’) and I think that also I was still hanging on psychologically to AOP.

Things began to come together in July thank goodness – see my blog post about it here.  Three events happened – I got my results from AOP, which were excellent and I was named ‘blog of the week’ in WeAreOCA after I wrote about my reactions to the ‘Out of Control” Exhibition at the Saatchi Gallery.  My tutor also clarified his feedback comments on assignment 1 in a comprehensive email that was so helpful and supportive.  Additionally I decided to do some more work on fairytales as a follow-up to my AOP work and set up a thread on the OCA student site asking for volunteers to read a fairy tale and complete a brief questionnaire.  I’ve had several responses and will analyse results at the end of September

What happened from there was that I became more deeply interested in photography as art and started to read quite avidly. This was good, but it meant that actually taking photographs took a bit of a back seat.  I had completed all the exercises and also gathered images for Assignment 2 but then there was preparation for the OCA Student Residential Weekend in Leeds at the beginning of September.  We were asked to take a set of prints connected with a current project, either personal or OCA, for the Portfolio Review group.  I’ve had a personal project on the back burner for a year because there seemed too many potential themes emerging for me to get focussed, so I decided that it would be good to use work I’d done for the portfolio review.  The weekend was both enjoyable and stimulating and I have already written a brief post earlier on aspects which struck me (fuller notes are in my paper log).

With a clearer head I’ve been able to focus on getting Assignment 2 together.  In the previous post I laid out the first possibility but have decided to go for some later work in the hope that this will show some development in technique and also confidence.  A major difference is that, this time, I interacted much more with my subjects. The assignment brief doesn’t ask for that but I knew that this would help my confidence level.

A reminder of the Assignment brief

I have to do this over again because I do keep losing the essence of it.

Produce a set of approximately 10 final, selected images (the same person or small group at different kinds of activity, or different people at the same single activity or event. Concentrate on two aspects : telling moments and ‘explaining; the activity (which means choosing viewpoint, framing and timing to make the actions as intelligible as possible).

Garden Safari

For the past ten years the village has held an annual Garden Safari over a weekend in June.  Local residents open their gardens to the public – all shapes and sizes and plantings.  Cream teas are offered by some and plants are often for sale.  Entry is gained through the £5 purchase of a leaflet which informs you of names and addresses of the gardens concerned; type of garden and on which day they will be open.  The money raised goes towards the Village Hall refurbishment fund.

Last year I visited several for the first time and was particularly fascinated by the local allotments and a local garden maintained by a retired landscape gardener and his wife (I’ve changed any names mentioned).  I decided to visit again this year to see how everything had fared in the poor weather we had experienced so far. I also wanted to see if I could improve upon the images I took when I visited Wirksworth in terms of framing and composition. I will be sending my tutor contact sheets (5×5) containing all the images I took, together with the ones processed so that he can see my choices and any processing decisions I made, including cropping etc.

The photographs were taken on two separate days at two allotments and one garden. One allotment had only just opened and is the first new one for more than 25 years, the other one has been in existence since 1917 . It was another weekend of sun and clouds that created difficulties with working out exposures, particularly when clouds were moving fairly quickly. I generally seem to be attracted towards greenery which, of course, affects white balance. I made my initial selection from 137 photographs taken over the weekend.

On looking at the full contact sheet I realise how my attention was veering between wanting to capture the essence of the gardens and allotments and the people working them. I also noticed that, unlike at Wirksworth, I wasn’t taking many head and shoulder type close-ups. Understandable I suppose when gardening usually involves the whole body.  Unless you’re planting out pots of course.

I chose 27 as an initial selection:


Four of them (6126, 6127, 6141, 6142) were of the allotments but not people, although there are traces of people there.  I’d originally included them because they showed context. 6138 was the strawberries held by the lady in 6139 – they showed one of the outcomes but nothing of the activity itself..  6139 had been taken at my camera’s widest focal length (15mm) and I decided it was too distorted.  6140 was at too far a distance I decided, especially as it was a back view. I chose 6161 against 6160 as one can see more of the activity involved.  I thought the one of the couple with the rhubarb (6189) was good for context but it looked too sun-dappled.  There were three of Mr and Mrs Vincent and I decided that 6229 was the best framing/angle.

This left me with 14:


I then excluded four more.  I’d thought the posture  in 6151 was quite quirky. It appealed to my sense of humour but it isn’t really obvious what the activity is. Similarly with 6161, the gentleman (a new allotment grower) was using an azada on the very overgrown plot he’d just rented. I’ve never heard of an azada but he said it was very easy to use and easier on one’s back. I initially thought of including 6158 but, when I printed it out the sky bled into the white of the paper. I darkened it but decided that there was also too much shadow in his face. I was really torn between 6241 and 6242 – the young man roofing the new shed.  I reluctantly decided to exclude 6241 because in 6242 he was actually engaged in the task as opposed to looking at me but changed my mind later (see below). In 6239 the gardener is concentrating on planting so the emphasis is on the action as opposed to his person. I decided that 6240 was the better image because you can see more of his face and there’s also more energy about it.

Final selection

The order I have chosen is not the order in which I took the photographs.  One thing I noticed about the new allotment is that the gardeners seemed to be younger so I’m presenting the photographs as a time metaphor in a sense – younger people on new allotments getting to grips with creating the space and planting; more experienced gardeners reaping the fruits of their labours and a very experienced gardener, wise in years, contemplating his efforts.

1) [6244]

The allotments had been open for 6 weeks and there was a lot of preparatory work being done, including building tool sheds.  There were a lot of new sheds which I’d thought would be included in the rent,  but I was told they had to be paid for. I could have zoomed in closer but I wanted to include more of the context to gain that sense of newness.  Also, zooming in would have meant a longer focal length which would have excluded part of the group.

2) [6241]

I’d asked if it would be okay to photograph him so he posed.  It’s f/8 @ 42mm. I think I should have used f/5 or so which would have given a faster speed andmade it sharper. He’s less sharp than the shed and I should also have use spot focus) . I’d kept my camera on multi-focus. Having written that I could, of course, have focused on him, half-pressed the shutter button and then re-focused. I was too aware of stopping him for carrying on with his task. This was a substitute for another image I’d originally chosen. I think it works better.

3) [6242]

I waited a moment until he was ‘unaware’. I cropped this just to show the roof and to get a diagonal.


4) [6240]

We had a talk afterwards about the allotment. He has a garden at home but wants to grow vegetables on the allotment. The soil looks quite clayey and he told me that the weeds soon take over. Slightly cropped to draw more attention to the hoeing.

Nos 2, 3, and 4 are all photographs of the people you can see in No. 1. From there I moved further around the allotment.

5) [6254]

More small group effort. I wasn’t going to include this at first as there is slight blowing-out on the top of the man’s shirt on the right so that some of the pattern is lost.  It’s showing partnership though which I think is important in building something new.

6) [6255]

Hard work laying out a bed.  Should I have taken a closer shot just to show the effort? I keep wanting to show the context but am I overdoing that?

The next images in the series were taken at the older allotment.

7) [6135]

They were just about to leave so we had some banter backwards and forwards and then the cat moved in just at the right time. I took this for the geometry.

8) [6125]

This gentleman told me he’d had an allotment for  7 years, four of them here. He was also opening his home garden on the following day. We had a conversation about deep bed systems which keep away the pests.

9) [6156

This is Jennifer who has an allotment with her husband Paul.  They had to wait 6 years to get it and have been here for a year. They were just waiting on their first beetroot crop. I took this photograph just as she was standing up from some weeding. It works for me because it shows her in an environment she’s enjoying and her face and stance appeal to me. It was taken at f/11 which wasn’t necessary, but I’d not changed it after photographing a row of sheds. A wider aperture would have provided a faster speed but it does look quite sharp to me. Thinking about this now, maybe it’s better to have the camera on TV setting rather than manual and let the aperture take care of itself.

The final image is of Mr and Mrs Vincent.

10) [6229)

This photograph is of a moment of contemplation and quiet concern on Mr Vincent’s part because the poor weather meant that there were less flowers to show. The Vincents have been in the Garden Safari Scheme from the start , but are thinking of stopping now because of the work involved at their age.  Their garden is quirky with pixies, fairies, gnomes and all kinds of small statues. This year they’ve also installed some hens so I went to say hello to them.



I’m not sure that the quality of the images is better compared with the earlier ones from Wirksworth but I can feel more confidence there in that I was interacting more when appropriate. There’s something about allotments that I love – all the greenery around and the evidence of so much work and dedication to the soil and growing things.

I think these photographs speak for themselves but I’m aware of how much I keep wanting to add some narrative – not necessarily because it’s required but because I want to tell some of the story of what I see. The other more technical aspect I need to consider is my inclination to show the context and not being able to decide how much is enough.


12th September 2012

Assignment 1 : Response to Tutor Feedback

Response to Tutor feedback on Assignment 1

My feedback came quickly with helpful comments (some positive  – some less so) and suggestions. It seems to have taken weeks though for me to get to grips it – well not the feedback exactly but this Module itself.  A part of it I know was letting go of AOP and still feeling ‘unfinished’, as I was doing a lot of reading around various writers’ views of the meaning of fairy tales and contemporary critiques.

I’ve done work towards most of the exercises in Part two so have several folders of images waiting for my attention but keep distracting myself.  I’ve also acquired some more of the recommended books for ‘People & Place” such as Charlotte Cotton, Geoff Dyer, Caruana & Fox and David Levi Strauss  and several more books on photographers – Saul Leiter, Duane Michals and Keith Carter.  So far as the photographers are concerned I think I’m still searching for a style or concept that will fit my personality, philosophy and feelings about the world and build me a stronger bridge towards People & Place.  I’m not feeling entirely negative because I have felt more enthusiastic about the Course these last few days and so it really is time to address my tutor’s comments and move on.

Some aspects of tutor feedback

Positive comments regarding my first image of Matt in the stable but the other portraits not as strong for a variety of reasons.


My tutor had noticed some problems  with a hint of blue colour cast and we had a discussion about this by email. Basically, the prints looked pretty much as they do on screen so it didn’t appear to be a calibration problem (I use Huey Pro). He had also queried whether I worked the images in Photoshop or were they jpegs straight out of the camera. In fact, I nearly always shoot RAW  and then go into PS.

Image 2.(10)

suggests a bit of a ‘lurking in the undergrowth’ look and  might have been better  substituted for this one

which was on my contact sheet and has a more natural look –  with some modifications; eg being cropped along top and left side and where moving to the left a little could have avoided the tree coming out of his head. I could also have used a shallower depth of field. The depth of field is actually f/5 and, of course, I hadn’t put this in the final selection because of the tree problem. Hadn’t thought of cropping though so I’ve had a go

Image 3 (15)

Good strong eye contact and serves well as a headshot. Suggestion I might have asked him to remove his hat for a slight difference in composition and maybe used some off camera fill flash to add a catch light. Points taken. There was a slight problem here with the colour (cyan cast) and my tutor helpfully made some alterations to this so I could see the difference – removing the cast; cropping a little tighter and increasing the contrast slightly.

Image 4 (22)






This was the one where I wanted a more somber, contemplative shot where it was darker in the trees (and the hat is removed) and I’d used flash as well. Comment was made that  it seemed redundant with the presence of Image 3, but could benefit if cropped as a much tighter head and shoulders shot, without the trees. Here is is with alterations:-


Photographs inside the house

These were considered to be less successful overall. Whilst my tutor thought it was good to experiment with the Holga lens which added another dimension, he suggested getting the basics down before experimenting.  He wrote that the main problem was the lack of eye contact. This is where I felt confused because I’ve looked at many portrait shots  that don’t have eye contact, including the examples in the Module Handbook and also portraits at the Out of Control Exhibition at the Saatchi Gallery (e.g. some of those by Katy Grannan).  Also in the assignment brief we were told that the portraits should be different in type and style.

However, my tutor thought the introduction of the mirror was an interesting element and it might be worthwhile exploring this in the future.

Suggestions of Photographers to look at

Along the lines of my introduction of a mirror, it was suggested I look at the work of Brian Griffin .  I thought these were very interesting and distinctive – should also add that not all of them show direct eye contact with the photographer. I’ve copied several of them into my paper log for reference. There is one of George Melly wearing rings like eyes on his little fingers as he holds his hands up to his eyes (quite surrealistic). Len Deighton holding a book aloft and standing in between a computer and  printer (very contextual). Martin Parr – a blur of movement as he opens a door whose edge is sharp and clear. Another one is of Howard Hodgkin, painter here which has an unearthly look. the skin on hands and face is pale and paper thin and he almost looks at the point of death. You can see the hands of a woman (I think) standing behind him – right hand on her right breast and left just gently touching his shoulder. There’s a narrative there but of what?  I did a search on Howard Hodgkin and looked at an interview from 2010 – although his hair is the same colour of white his skin has much more colour. Does this mean that Griffin processed the image to gain a desired effect?  Were they talking about light/dark, thoughts of death?  The tones are wonderful and I keep looking at it..  Oddly enough there’s something about it that reminds me of ‘The Blade Runner’, where Rutger Hauer is crouching on the parapet, ready to die,  and looks almost like an angel.

Considering the work I’d done on ‘Tales with Valeria’ for AOP my tutor thought I might also like to look at Griffin’s ‘The Water People” – a series of portraits Griffin made for the Icelandic Water Board, shot through a pane of glass with water flowing over it  here . The concept is an interesting one although these images appealed to me less – the effect of dissolving has too sinister a feel for me.

Another suggestion, in respect of environmental portraits, was to look at the work of Peter Marlow,  a Magnum photographer.  The website didn’t allow me to click into his portraits to see them in larger size but it does enable one to download a pdf of his general portfolio, which contains portraits.  These portrait are less ‘styled’ with slightly more of an air of ‘caught in the moment’ whilst travelling in a car; sitting at the desk at the office; walking etc – perhaps more concentration on the person of the subject as opposed to making a creative statement for/about them.

Post-Assignment work

I’ve already written up the 1:1 session I had on simple lighting . Following this I bought a speedlite and,  new wireless trigger and set up a practice session with my husband in the garage. Here are three of the results


At least I’ve been practising, despite still continuing to believe that portraits aren’t really me! It’s a chicken and egg thing I think. I don’t want to have people pose patiently for me and then produce something mediocre, but the fact that the portraits are relatively ordinary leads me to think I’m pretty rubbish so I feel even less confident and that it’s not worth trying.

Other aspects I need to take into consideration

These are more general considerations for writing up assignments, following on from additional tutor comments.

In the exercises leading up to Assignment 1 I wrote that I had taken 327 photographs overall on the three long sessions I had with Matt, which I then whittled  down to 34 before filtering even more down to 16 and the final 7.  However, I wasn’t explicit about this in writing up Assignment 1 and so my tutor thought I had only shot 34 photographs and commented that this wasn’t enough.

  • I must remember to include this type of information in my Assignment write-ups as my  tutor and Assessors will  concentrate on looking at my Assignments (and re-runs of them) with much less time available to them to sample/scan exercises etc.

My tutor wanted to see more evidence of other work I’ve looked at and reading around the subject. I read Train your Gaze for the Assignment and did look at other images but wrote little about this.  I think this is a fair indication of my diffidence regarding portraits. In terms of general reading and research – this is a new blog and so this information is expanding all the time. My Art of Photography blog has a lot of this type of information and my concern is that, in a way, this is going to be redundant now in terms of evidencing my development unless I find a way to link this in wherever possible.

16th July 2012