The Balloon Ride and the Hawk in the Rain – thinking positively on a cold, wet day.

The weather has turned colder and wetter over the last two days and it’s made my bones ache.  Also I seem to have come to a bit of a halt photography wise.  It’s happened since I sent off my first Assignment for feedback.  There are exercises to work on and I’ve had ideas for mini projects but I can’t seem to get going on them.  Maybe I’ll feel more enthusiastic when my assignment comes back – then again maybe not!

It seems I’m not on my own at this point because this morning a discussion started on the OCA Flickr site about what to do when feeling un-motivated.  My left-brain response was to start a list of things I needed to do (work not photography) because at least then I could tick things off and feel more positive.  One bit of advice was to go out and just take a photograph of something silly and without having to think it should be perfect.  I did contemplate that for a while – thought I might even go out and buy a funny toy and photograph that – but I just didn’t have the energy.

I started to think about rain and then had an inspiration.  I would find a poem about rain.  Straight away, ‘Hawk in the Rain’ came to mind – the poem by Ted Hughes.  I did a creative writing course many years ago and can still remember my tutor putting on a recording of a poet reading his own poetry.  His voice immediately took me back to Yorkshire and I felt at home.  Having decided to find the poem I then thought back to an email from one of my contacts who lives in the States.  He’d sent me a link to his website and mentioned some photos of a balloon ride.  I remembered my own balloon ride in December 2005.  I was on holiday in Egypt,  and asked our local guide about  balloon rides because a friend had told me about them.   I’m not a very brave person and the idea of going up in one of those wouldn’t normally cross my mind.  However, I found myself asking our guide about them and then signing up to a dawn ride over the Valley of the Queens. It was definitely an uplifting experience!  I went back amongst my old photos and found these two.


Taken with a previous  compact camera so not the best but I worked on them in Photoshop a bit. and the colours are warming and cheerful.  I can remember the day, the air of excitement and all the children rushing around to help.  I wonder how all those people are now in the midst of  recent events.  I really liked the Egyptian people.  There is a lot of poverty there but the people I met were lively and energetic despite it all; and also very proud of their country.  I had wanted to go to Egypt for a long time because my father was in the army there after the 2nd World War and he sent me letters which I still have because my mother saved them for me.  He travelled with me in a way because everywhere I went I wondered if my father had been there and tried to imagine him all those years ago – young, black-haired and handsome with his flashing brown eyes and wide smile.

I then found the poem, “The Hawk in the Rain”.  It actually paints quite a violent picture but I like the assonance and alliteration. Here’s an extract


While banging wind kills these stubborn hedges,

Thumbs my eyes, throws my breath, tackles my heart,

And rain hacks my head to the bone, the hawk hangs

The diamond point of will that polestars

The sea drowner’s endurance:…


I can imagine Ted Hughes striding on the Yorkshire Moors in the rain and creating these words in his head.

I normally pass over all those tips and hints on thinking positively like, ‘before you go to sleep think of 3 things that went well during the day’, but I think it is true that  when you’re having negative thoughts you mainly only remember miserable things that happened in the past and what went wrong.  It can be hard to pull yourself out of them.  I’m not talking here about bone-deep depression, because that’s something else entirely, but those days when life seems to have lost its sparkle a little.  I’m glad I found the balloon and the hawk in the rain.

28th February 2011


John Berger, “Ways of Seeing”, 1972

I remember watching the TV series in the 70s and finding it very interesting.  My memory is of lavish colour shots but maybe I was wrong.  I borrowed the book from the library and was really surprised.  It’s a paperback and very small and thin with only black and white pictures inside.I was also immediately struck by the font (monophoto univers), which I don’t remember seeing before.   It’s very black and square somehow.  Also the book itself has very narrow margins, so the whole impression was of words leaping out at me from the page.

A note to the reader states that the book was made ‘ by five of us’ (the five men, including John Berger, who created the television programme.). It consists of seven numbered essays but there is no mention as to whether each of them wrote an essay or if it was a combined creation.  Whichever it was the tone of the book seems didactic to me as it makes statements rather than inviting a dialogue between author and reader, even though the note also states, “Our principal aim has been to start a process of questioning”.  The very fact that they are ‘essays’ makes this more of an academic treatise.

The television series was mainly about art but I want to pick out as much as I can which also relates to photography.  The first essay establishes that , “The relation between what we see and what we know is never settled” (p.7).  We see before we know and speak and,  “The way we see things is affected by what we know or what we believe” (p.8).  Additionally, “ We are always looking at the relation between things and ourselves”.  So, the culture into which we’re born and the world we experience, affects how we view anything. In relation to photography, the point is made that the photographer’s way of seeing is reflected in his choice of subject just as the painter’s way of seeing is reconstituted into marks on paper..

Berger et al also make the point that cultural assumptions about art include a mystification of the past and so works of art are made unnecessarily remote.   I think they’re taking a political standpoint as well  in stating that this mystification occurs because a privileged minority is, , ‘striving to invent a history which can retrospectively justify the role of the ruling classes’. A later essay expands upon this point.

There is a comparison between art and photography which hadn’t occurred to me before and that is concerned with perspective. According to the authors, the convention of perspective in European art centres everything on the eye of the beholder , so that the eye becomes the centre of the visible world and there is no visual reciprocity.

This changed with the introduction of the camera.  They quote from an article by Dziga Vertov, Soviet film director in 1923 (see p. 17),  where he writes of the camera as being an eye in constant movement, and so leading to a fresh perception of the world. Drawing or paintings which use perspective proposed that the spectator was the unique centre of the world, whereas the camera, particularly the movie camera, demonstrated that there was no centre.  To me that seems a very general statement and I’m not sure I can agree with it.  If I am standing in my own house and looking at painting of another house, then I know that the other house is in a different place. A film engages me more because, I think, my imagination comes more into the forefront and, if it’s a good film and I’m enjoying it, I become a part of the action so that it becomes my world.

Another comparison is made between a painting and photography.  Although a painting is transportable it can never be seen in two places at the same time,.  If a camera reproduces a painting it destroys the uniqueness of the its image and its meaning multiplies and fragments into many meanings.  There is something in that for me.  I’ve often found that the original painting can be so different from its reproductions.  In fact it is often smaller and so its impact can be diminished somehow, especially when it appears amongst many other painting which all compete for my attention. Not to mention the fact that I’m unable to hold it in my hand and examine it more closely.

The second essay is a series of images of women  – photographs,  reproductions of paintings and a statuette –  which focus on their bodies and the next essay puts the view that women are seen as objects which are owned by men. “The ideal spectator is always assumed to be male and the image of the women is designed to flatter him.” (p. 64). This made me think of “Portrait of my British Wife” the photograph of his wife by Panayiotis Lamprou, which came second in the Taylor Wessing Portrait Prize.  There was something for me about – she is mine, you can look but not touch. (see other post),  The authors also suggest an experiment – choose an image of a traditional nude from the book, transform the woman into a man and, “notice the violence which that transformation does”.  For me, the reverse happened.  The photograph that won first prize in the Taylor Wessing Portrait Prize was of a beautiful young huntress.  I don’t think it would have had the same impact upon me if it had been of a young man.

Another essay (No. 5) p. 83) discusses the fact that oil paintings often depict things which are buyable and if you buy a painting you also buy the look of the thing it represents.  Transfer that to photographs and all the lifestyle magazines that contain them.  Essay No. 7 (p.129) compares paintings with modern publicity images and provides illustrations of similarities that show a continuing use of historical, mythological and poetic references. The essay also states that the invention of cheap colour photography, “ can reproduce the colour texture and tangibility of objects as only oil paint had been able to do before” (p. 140). Whereas an oil painting showed what a person already owned,  publicity  images make you want what you don’t currently own.


23rd February 2011



‘Phil and Me’ – Amanda Tetrault, 2004

Phil and Me’ – Amanda Tetrault

(Tetrault, Amanda, Phil and Me, Trolley Ltd, GB, 2004)

In a previous post I described my visit, at the end of January, to ‘Ways of Seeing’ an Exhibition at the Lightbox, Gallery and Museum in Woking.   I ended by reflecting upon the use of photography as therapy and stating that I wanted to explore this further.  A couple of weeks later I was reading the latest edition of Marie Claire magazine when I came upon an article about Amanda Tetrault who is a photographer in Montreal, Canada. It described her relationship with her father; the photographs she had taken of him and the book that had been published in 2004.

Amanda’s father, Philip Tetrault, suffers from schizophrenia.  He didn’t take medication for many years and Amanda’s mother, Natalie, left him when Amanda was three because she couldn’t live with him anymore.   Philip lived a life on the streets, they kept in touch and he visited occasionally.   His behaviour was very frightening at times though, and when Amanda was 12 she and her mother moved away without giving him an address. His own mother continued to keep in touch though and when she died c2000, Natalie decided to keep on doing this in his mother’s memory so that he became a part of their lives again, although never coming into the house.

An internet search led me to Amanda’s website and also an August 2004 article, ‘Father dear father’, in The Guardian newspaper.  Amanda writes that her father never really worked as such but has always written poetry.  He lives a different world, and they meet together and walk around Montreal.  She also refers to the shame of having a father with schizophrenia and that she didn’t tell anyone the truth about him until she was 19.  One of the ways in which she dealt with her feelings about her father was to take photographs of him and this started around the time she was 19 as well.  I wanted to see the photographs and bought the book.

The cover of the book is illustrated by a collage of small photos (some coloured) and the book itself is mainly photographs, in black and white, but with some extracts from letters, and poetry handwritten by Philip over the years.  I felt sad when looking at the photographs, which document the passing of time and the obvious deterioration in Philip’s condition. Some photos are from early years and taken in booths, but others are taken by Amanda.

There is a letter from Amanda to Phil in the early pages (there are no page numbers), where she writes about the effect of his illness upon her, “When I was a girl and you became sick you were a monster to me.  When I was a teenager and at my most self-conscious, you and schizophrenia were my biggest secrets”.  Amanda apologises for running away from him, forgives him for being the way he was and, finally, thanks him, “..for trying hard anyway…for showing me the street, the squirrels and the crows and for making me see so many other sides.

In the Guardian article Amanda writes that the photographs were very much about getting rid of the shame that surrounds having a father with schizophrenia and about seeing the beauty as well.  I was also pleased to read that his illness is not as bad and he’s taking his medication.

It seems to me that, at the age of 19, when Amanda began to tell people about her father and also take photographs of him she was both acknowledging that that was the way he was and, in some respects, becoming more able to distance herself from her fear of him as a child.  I have worked as a counsellor in the past and one method of helping people was to ask them to describe an event as if they were watching it on a television screen.  I would imagine that holding a photograph enabled Amanda to really look at her father in a safer emotional space.

I hadn’t thought of photography as therapy until I went to the Ways of seeing Exhibition and, having looked at Amanda Tetrault’s book, I’ve now done an Internet search. It seems that phototherapy techniques have begun to be more widely used in recent years.  One US website distinguishes PhotoTherapy (an interrelated system of photo-based counseling techniques, from Therapeutic Photography (self-conducted activities) which is what I think Amanda Tetrault used for herself. I have also looked at a critical paper for a Masters Degree in the UK.

22nd February 2011



Postscript to “Phil and Me”

I still had Philip Tetrault in mind and, in an idle moment, did an internet search.  There were quite a few links (a bit of a shock as well to see a link to my blog amongst them!).  Anyway I was really interested to see that there had been a documentary film about him which won the 2006 C.B.C. Newsworld Award for Best Documentary in the Independent Film and Video Festival.

The film was called “The Beggars Description” and was made in 2005 by Pierre Tetrault (a playwright, actor and stage director) who is Philip’s brother.  One of the reports said that the most stirring moments of the documentary featured “the three most influential women in Philip’s life” – his mother, the mother of his daughter and his daughter. Here’s a link to the film description

There is another site called “Heck of a Guy’ a blog by a someone who calls himself DrHGuy and is a fan of Leonard Cohen. It’s a well put together blog and interesting reading if you like Leonard Cohen.

Leonard Cohen met Philip Tetrault years ago and has kept in touch with him.  The site gives video links to two clips from the film.  One is called, ‘Picnic in the Park’ and is Philip and Leonard sitting on a bench talking together.  They reminisce about when they first met.  Leonard Cohen couldn’t remember but Philip could.  Leonard shows Philip how to thumb wrestle and also reads a poem from Philip’s privately published book of poetry  The other clip is of Philip reciting his poems in Montreal in 2006.Having read Amanda’s story it was good for me to see another view of her father, Philip.  I was also touched by something written by DrHGuy which I think is very apt and worth taking on board:-

“Finally, I cannot let this opportunity to dispute a still powerful myth pass.  Phil Tetrault can write excellent poetry in spite of schizophrenia, not because of it, and Leonard Cohen was able to write novel, poems, and songs in spite of the depression that afflicted him for years, not because of it. The romantic notion that psychiatric disorders somehow put artists in touch with an inner world not otherwise available is fallacious and, from my perspective, an insult to the artists with those diagnoses.”

I have to confess that I too have accepted that ‘myth’ in the past.  I’m not sure I entirely agree with the opposite view but it’s worth exploring.


27th February 2011



References     Critical paper for Masters degree specialising in therapeutic photography



Assignment 1 : Contrasts

Assignment 1: Contrasts


Contrast: –

The state of being noticeably different from something else when put or considered together

A thing or person noticeably different from another

The amount of difference in tones in a television picture, photograph etc.

Pocket Oxford English Dictionary

The Assignment brief uses contrast between all qualities for its basis (as opposed to the pure photographic sense of range of brightness) although, of course, these have to been shown visually. Freeman reminds us that Johannes Itten’s theory of composition in art was rooted in the one simple concept of contrast being used as the basis for composing an image (p. 24, 2007).  The aim now is to apply it to photographs.

At first sight the task seemed relatively simple as there is a large choice of contrasting pairs (21) from which to choose just 8, plus one photograph which demonstrates contrast ‘in one picture’. I discovered though that , whilst it was relatively easy to find one of the pair, it was harder to find its required opposite and I’ll explain why when evaluating the photographs.

I chose:


Still/Moving/Both in one picture






Hard/Soft (which also fitted Rough/Smooth)

Contrast 1 – Diagonal/Rounded

a) Diagonal

At the beginning of February this year we were on a short photography trip to the City of London.  I had made a list of contrast pairs and written them on a small index card to have with me as a reminder.   I was looking across the road at the edifice of the Gherkin when these diagonals at the base of the building almost leaped out at me.

I took several shots and this is the one that I think portrays them the best.  I was standing around 34 metres away and zoomed in until I could frame the image as I thought best.  This gave a focal length of 35mm at f11 with a speed of 1/15.  The height and width of the diagonals are accentuated by the relative smallness of the people standing in front (just right of bottom centre).  I didn’t think that the image needed cropping, but added more contrast when editing, with sharpening through the high pass filter.

We then moved on to St Dunstan-in-the-East Church where I discovered what, to me, was an immediate contrast.

b) Rounded

This Church is located between London Bridge and the Tower of London.  It was originally built around 1100; patched up in the C17th; rebuilt between 1817 and 1821 but then severely damaged in the Blitz of 1941.  It was decided not to rebuild and instead, the ruins were turned into a public garden. The tower and steeple survived intact but only the north and south walls remain of the rest of the Church.

A lawn and trees have been planted within the ruins with a low fountain in the middle of the nave and this enclosed space is open to the sky. There is an inner circle of small paving with the fountain in the middle (not working at this time of year) and the surrounding wooden seating is arranged in as much of a circle as can be achieved. I felt immediately at peace as I walked in there from the busy London streets with their large commercial buildings.  To me there was a sense of wholeness and completeness in this space.

It was quite a challenge for me to capture this.  I wanted to get as much a sense of the roundedness as I could but it was a small space. Also, the seating wasn’t exactly round but I didn’t think it was appropriate to start moving things around to my liking. I used my camera on almost its widest setting (19mm) to get as much as possible within the frame, including the fountain in the middle.  Exposure was somewhat difficult because it was a flat, white light outside but darker within due to the seating and trees.  I took several shots at different exposures and, when choosing the image settled for some highlight clipping beyond the windows, otherwise the interior would appear too dark. I tried tone mapping and also HDT using a Photmatix plug-in but both made this particular photo look too artificial.

The green of the algae on the walls and the lawn and the browns of the seating, plus the light windows, provide a much softer and more natural image giving another contrast with the hardness of the  ‘Diagonal’.

Contrast 2 – Still/Moving

a) Still

I took this in front of the Royal Exchange building where I noticed this girl sitting on a bench.  It was a cold day and, with hood up and legs crossed, she looked very statue-like to me as she gazed at her mobile phone.  She stayed like this for quite a while which gave me the opportunity to photograph her in portrait mode (which allowed for her posture). I was standing around 6 metres away from her and the zoom at 67mm enabled me to compose the shot with some of the background context but not a lot.  I cropped the image very slightly when editing – at the top and bottom.  I thought of cropping it more at the top to exclude the background context but decided I preferred to leave some there to show she was still but amongst other people in an urban environment.

b) Moving

I went back to photographs already taken to find the opposite of  ‘Still.’ This photograph was taken in Venice at the beginning of October last year.  I was standing on one of the bridges over the canal and about 38 metres away. Portrait mode allows for the length of the boat and, I think, accentuates the narrowness of the canal and the need for careful manoeuvring of the gondola.  The slight motion blur on the gondolier’s right wrist/arm shows the careful motion here as they move along at a stately pace.  The man at the front is looking ahead whilst his lady companions look around at the sights.

c) Still/Moving (/contrast in one image)

Taken in Venice again near to St. Mark’s Square – in landscape format, which accentuates the flow of people on the bottom right.  A focal length of 40mm allows for the breadth of people.

The couple on the left, sitting on the staging, are obviously discussing something but the man in the middle sits still, gazing amongst the many tourists wandering around.  I cropped the photograph slightly on the left so that the people there are also disappearing off the frame and deepened the blue of his top to draw more attention to him in his stillness.

Contrast 3 – Large/Small

I had various ideas on this contrast – buildings; cranes; planes and a toy tractor against the wheel of my car to show its smallness.  However, on looking amongst photographs I already had I settled on the following which, as it happens, also represent contrast in one image.

a) Large

Capri, at the end of September last year.  I was walking back along the quay towards the return ferry to Naples when I saw this other ferry coming in with its dark bulk and landing gear being lowered.  At the distance and position I was in it looked almost as if its dark maw was going to engulf the people in the smaller boat.

b) Small

Coming into Venice on a very large Cruise ship and looking down at the tiny tug which was shepherding us safely to port.  Contrasts also of white railings and balcony screens against the blue green of the water.  I had to poke my camera between people, angling down to take the photograph (which also shows the sweep of the balconies, giving more sense of large size).

I utilized 76mm focal length and f11 to get sufficient depth of field to see the context.  I thought of cropping the photograph in editing to cut out the buildings on the right but I also think they show the narrow range within which the tug operates alongside these mighty cruise ships. I think this photograph also shows contrast between liquid/solid and high/low.

Contrast 4 – Dark/Light

a) Dark

This is one of the two life-size bronze statues of enlisted soldiers (finished in black), which guard the 1st World War memorial in front of the Royal Exchange Building in the City of London.  (

The soldier is standing on a high plinth so it seemed to tower above me as I took the photograph (55mm focal length in portrait format).  In editing I cropped it because my composition hadn’t been good enough just to frame the soldier and buildings could be seen behind.  I think the cropping I did also accentuates the height of the statue.  I was struck by the blackness of the statue which also reminded me of death, particularly all those brave young men who died too soon and who continue to die in wars far away.

At first I thought of the contrast black/white but, back home, something else came into mind.

b) Light

This small, stone statuette (4 ½” high) was a gift to me many years ago from a friend.  It was made in Kenya and represents a mother and child. It feels good to handle as one’s fingers curve easily around its flowing shape. It is a pale beige colour rather than white so contrasts with dark rather than black.  There are other contrasts here of course when compared with the life-sized dark bronze statue of the soldier – large/small; strong/weak; high/low and male/female.  Predominantly, though, to me it is about the contrast between the darkness of death and nurturing new life.

I had two attempts at capturing it as an image, using a tripod and small light tent with AV priority. I also used manual focus with live view.  At the first attempt I used in-camera flash with a soft diffuser and 85mm lens at f8 1/60th.  However, this gave various points of light reflected from the statuette’s surface.  The second attempt was without flash, in natural daylight 85mm lens at f7.1 1/13th.  When editing I darkened the background and lightened the statuette with the hope of producing a soft glow.  I’m now thinking that the background is too dark. Also maybe I should have cropped it, particularly at the top.  If I did that it would then appear larger though.  I still don’t feel satisfied and would re-do the whole thing but have to wait because my camera has gone away for repair and I won’t have it for around two weeks.  Additionally, I definitely need to know more about lighting in general, and do more reading and practising.

Contrast 5 – Many/Few

a) Many

I took this photograph at the local garden centre.  Focal length 27mm from just under a metre away, which gave a fairly wide angle to accentuate the number of plants, which also disappear off the frame – again accentuating ‘many’.

b) Few

At the garden centre again.  Here I focused in on just one plant with a longer focal length of 73mm to gain almost a macro shot.  I set the aperture at f7 hoping this would give a short enough depth of field to blur the background.  It does represent ‘few’ but I think this image could have been sharper – part of the problem being that I wasn’t using a tripod.  If I had used a tripod I could have used manual focus and live view to really make sure of sharp focus. It didn’t seem appropriate though given the setting.  Of course, as has been pointed out to me, I could have asked if it would be okay!

Contrast 6 – Blunt/Pointed

a) Blunt

Two of the many commercial buildings in the City of London, the one at the back with its blunt roofs jutting into the pale, heavy sky.  I was 35metres away and used a focal length of 35mm in portrait mode to get the building into frame whilst accentuating its height.  The competing angles of the two buildings make it look somewhat distorted, therefore I have done some image rotation and cropping in the hope of getting the right effect.

b) Pointed

One of the many churches in London which now compete for space against the large, new tower blocks which attempt to jostle them aside.  This one had sharp points on its steeples, which pierce the sky in their reach to the heavens. It was very high so I used a focal length of 80mm.  I think a telephoto lens would have been better to use here (if I had one) to provide sharper focus on the actual points. Also f11 probably wasn’t sufficiently narrow enough.

Contrast 7 – Transparent/Opaque

a) Transparent

I also have photographs of ornate streetlights but this shop window attracted me because it was both opaque and transparent.  I was more attracted towards ‘transparent’ because of the coloured shirts that can be seen in their stacks behind the logo.

b) Opaque

I wanted initially to use a photograph of a balcony screen on the house beside us.  This is a newly installed, opaque screen that blocks out some of my view of sky and trees,  However, I decided upon the following.

This is a waterfall in the Glass House of nearby Wisley Gardens, which I visited recently to carry out one of the exercises on shutter speeds.

This photograph of a small waterfall was taken in landscape format using 100mm lens at f11. The shutter speed was sufficient to almost freeze the water so that it looks like a muslin curtain.  I’m not sure whether it would have been better to use portrait format originally or to crop now to give more sense of height.

Contrast 8 – Hard/Soft or Rough/Smooth

a) Hard (and also Rough)

This is a view of a tree trunk in a Churchyard not too far away from where I live. I knelt quite close to it and used my widest focal length of 15mm. F11 gave me quite a sharp focus, which, to me, brings out the hardness/roughness of the protuberances on the bark.

b) Soft (and also Smooth)

A very different photograph here, although the colour tones are similar.

This is a photograph from December last year.  Focus on my youngest dog, Digby, with Dora behind him – both of them having a snooze on our bed waiting for something to happen! I used flash because the bedroom is fairly dark, with 63mm lens at f5.6.   There is the softness of his liquid brown eyes, muzzle and fur, with the mattress beneath him, combined with the smoothness of the quilt cover above him.

I mentioned earlier about the similarity in colour tones between the two contrasting images. I can also see a similarity of roundness of shape between the bark protuberances and how the duvet folds over the roundness of Digby’s head, with the further roundness of Dora’s head behind him.


I have been surprised how absorbing I found this first Assignment.  Of course, it is the first one so probably more anxiety provoking but I also became very involved in the types of contrast and some of the meaning in the images for me.  I gained more confidence in using the tripod and also learned how useful Live View and manual focus can be.  I think I need to be more careful in my use of apertures and make sure that they are providing me with the type of focus I need for individual shots.

18th February 2011

The Lightbox, Woking : Exhibition, ‘Ways of Seeing’.

The Lightbox, Woking : Ways of Seeing Exhibition

The Lightbox is a gallery and museum built by the side of the Basingstoke Canal and almost in the centre of Woking.  It was designed by Marks Barfield Architects who were also responsible for the London Eye.  The Lightbox has two galleries, which host a range of various types of exhibitions, and it also has an interactive museum of the town’s history.

I’ve been several times but, on this occasion, (22nd January 2011) went to see ‘Ways of Seeing’ an exhibition curated by a group of people with mental health problems.  The brochure informs us that two years was spent working on this project.  The group visited a number of museums and galleries to learn how exhibitions are curated.  They then spent months looking at items from the Ingram Collection of C20th Art and deciding which of them they would like to respond to. A further six months were then spent working with artists in a range of workshop sessions, to produce their own responses to the chosen works. A selection of their new works is exhibited alongside the pieces by the major artists, together with a number of short videos of the process by the film-maker Lee Cavaliere.

The group members had produced paintings, sculptures, drawings and prints, providing new interpretations of the pieces and I thought there was some really talented work on show. The brochure contains quotes from some of the members and photography featured for many of them in their daily life.  I was a little disappointed, therefore, that there were no new photographs in the Exhibition.  I suppose there is something extra in the act of just sitting down with others, discussing and engaging with a piece of art in a more tactile way.  It’s just occurred to me that maybe more creative areas of the brain are in operation through this as well.  I’ll have to do some research on that.

I worked in the mental health field for several years and ‘art therapy’ has been around for a long time but this seemed a much more holistic way of engaging people.  It must have been really satisfying for these particular group members to see a project through like this.

Afterwards I went to have another look in the small museum.  It’s in different sections and really well put together through a multi-dimensional approach. Many of the people of Woking contributed their personal photographs and mementoes and also recorded narratives of what life used to be like for them.  The records are accessed by picking up various old telephones which are dotted around.  There are brochures and photographs of Brookwood Cemetery from 1900 onwards; film and photographs of the opening of the Shah Jehan Mosque (the first in Britain).  There is also  memorabilia from Brookwood Hospital, a large psychiatric institution opened in 1867 and closed not so long ago to make way for expensive new houses and apartments. This particular part of the museum has models of the mind and early definitions of mental disorder.  There are also various objects such as wrist locks and neck collars and a scale model of a special type of whirling chair which appeared to have the same effect as electric shock treatment.  There are photographs of staff and patients (some of them in art therapy groups) and what looks like members of the Friends of the Hospital enjoying a dinner and dance.

I left thinking about the use of photographs as  images of record and  for advertising purposes – “a wonderful new garden cemetery”.  I also had this query in my mind concerning photography as therapy which I want to explore further.







Focal lengths and different viewpoints

Exercise 5: Focal lengths and different viewpoints

This involved finding a subject (with some depth) with enough space in front to allow a choice of viewpoint from near to far.  Two shots to be taken – one each with zoom at shortest and longest settings – and results compared. Read the rest of this entry »

Project: Focal Lengths

Project: Focal lengths

Exercise: Focal lengths

The purpose of this exercise was to see what effect is gained by changing lenses from one focal length to another as opposed to physically moving further away or nearer to the subject.

I took this series of  shots on a morning out by the Wey Canal in Pyrford near Woking  which is not too far away from where I live. For this particular exercise I decided to use John Donne’s summer house as a subject. Read the rest of this entry »

Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize 2010

Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize 2010 – National Portrait Gallery.

I included my first thoughts on this in an earlier more general post (Reflections) but recent feedback from my tutor has made me realise realised that I should have given it a more distinct category.  Here it is again. Read the rest of this entry »

Taste of Spring

8.1.11 It feels like Spring might be coming!

I went to bed last night feeling rather depressed because I seem to have taken backward steps somehow and my photographs aren’t turning out the way I would like them to.  I also keep having lots of thought around photography and its meaning for me but I never seem to get down to putting words on paper (or on blog).

This morning it was bright and sunny so I got up early (for me) and went to do some shopping.  Hobbycraft first for some bits and pieces and then to the local garden centre to buy some flowers.   I took my camera into the garden centre with me and took a few quick shots of flowers then bought some snowdrops and primulas.  Back home I decided to spend some time doing macro shots and, maybe, practise with the Lensbaby as I haven’t touched it for ages. Read the rest of this entry »

Looking through the Viewfinder – A sequence of composition

Exercise: A sequence of Composition (Workbook p. 28)

The aim of this exercise was to help me to think about the practical process of composing an image by recording the way I approach and shoot a subject.  In this instance I had to record all the moments that were ‘almost right’ and to use the camera viewfinder as a way of checking out possible pictures.


Newlands Corner, Surrey is a popular area for walkers and their dogs and also bikers who gather there especially on a Sunday to meet/greet and compare their motorbikes.  I thought this would be a good place to carry out several of the exercises and the photographs for this particular exercise were taken on our way back up the hill and our car. Read the rest of this entry »