Picture Analysis – Laura Letinsky

Have a close analytical look at the photograph above by Canadian
photographer Laura Letinsky. You can see a larger version at
http://thephotographersgallery.org.uk/ill-form-and-void-full (note: image is no longer available at this location).
There is something immediately uncanny in this photograph and in
much of Letinsky’s work. Firstly, notice the planes that make up the
background and the area on the lower left of the picture. These ‘surfaces’,
on which there are objects, shadows and cut-out pictures of objects, create an odd sense of space which you can only partly identify as a table
scene, a meal. There appears to be a slanted table top seen from the
side in the middle of the area on the left, but this surface is uncertain,
reflecting some of the objects and not others.
The objects themselves are simple, everyday items: two spoons, some
fruit and cherry pips. But the shadows and perspective of these objects
is inconsistent. This plays with our sense of dimensionality, the way we as
viewers orient our viewpoint on the scene depicted.
Some of these objects appear to be ‘real’ in the sense that Letinsky has placed and photographed them herself, whereas others have
been cut out of magazines. Notice that these cut-out objects had been
photographed from different viewpoints (and in a different time and
space), which Letinsky has tried to incorporate into the perspective of
her own ‘still life’ scene. The spoon on the far left appears to rest on the
surface and take part in the scene and the other spoon appears to hover
above the surface and has no shadow.
How many things in your own life are real in the sense that they are in
front of you physically? And how much of what you experience and
know comes through representations? Do you play sport, spectate or
watch it on television?
In her previous work, Letinsky used left-over meals, plates and cutlery
to indicate a scene, event or relationship going on beyond the view of
the photograph, turning viewers into detectives looking for clues and
connotations. Meticulously placed dishes express the thoughts and
emotions of the ‘character’ who placed them. In this work, she extends
this by looking at the ways people incorporate representations and
collective fantasies into their ‘reality’.
Have a look at Laura Letinsky’s website lauraletinsky.com. Also look at the
still life work Bungled Memories by David Bate at www.davidbate.net. For
a seventeenth-century comparison with Letinsky’s work, you can look at
the paintings of Pieter Claesz here: www.rijksmuseum.nl/en/collection/SK-A-4646/still-life

Write about the following issues in response to Letinsky’s photograph.
1. Visual description (objects & background/space)

Laura Letinsky → ILL FORM AND VOID FULL (2010) is an image of a white space containing a table covered with a white cloth that hides the legs. On top of the table is a white glass sheet, on which have been placed a number of objects. These include two pieces of orange fruit, some cherry pits, two spoons, one silver, the other slightly darker looking,  containing some sort of red objects, at the back of the table something that could be a small, white plate with more cherry pits resting on it and a curved object near to the two pieces of orange fruit.

2. Composition/design/arrangement

The image has been composed in such a way that it represents part of a meal or snack. The focus is on the bottom and middle left of the image but primarily the middle left.

The space being predominantly white, attention is drawn to the objects on the table and away from the majority of the space.

The table appears to be in the corner of a room as the light on the right hand side of the image gives the impression that there is a wall at an angle from the wall behind the table. However, close examination of the image doesn’t show any obvious line that would mark a corner.

The top of the table is sloped at a downward angle.

A reflection of the orange fruit can be seen in the table top and shadows of it are cast on the wall behind it.

A shadow from the curved object also appears on the wall. The spoons and small plate, however, have no reflections, or in the case of the spoon on the right and the plate, shadows. There is a very faint shadow of the handle of the spoon on the left on the wall behind.

3. Sense of space or ‘dimensionality’

The majority of things in the picture being white gives a sense of openess and space. The coloured items being so small this sense is added to. However, it is not possible to be sure whether this is a normal size room or a model of one.

4. Connotations

The images leads one to thinking about food and meals. The plate and spoons suggest that a meal may have been, or is in progress. The spoons hanging in the air and the cherry pips falling off the table suggest sudden absence, as if someone has rushed away from the table.

The cleanliness, as symbolised by the whiteness of everything, and the lack of clutter or mess, suggest an environment other than a domestic one, perhaps a high class restaurant.


David Bate | BUNGLED MEMORIES (2009) has produced a series of images of household objects which have been broken and then photographed in colour on his kitchen table. These images are similar to Letinsky’s work in the simplicity of the arrangement and items being photographed. Although there is a sense of space in common with Letinsky’s work there is not sense that the images have been adjusted using photos of other objects.

Claesz’ paintings Still Life with a Fish, Pieter Claesz., 1647 (s.d.) and Still Life with a Turkey Pie, Pieter Claesz., 1627 (s.d.) are similar to Letinsky’s work. Although in both these examples there is no sense of space, the paintings are filled with objects, there is still a sense that something isn’t quite right when you look at them in detail. Shadows don’t always go in the directions that you would expect, if an object actually has a shadow. Claesz I feel had an easier time with achieving the effect that Letinsky has because he would have been able to put shadows wherever he wanted, if indeed he added them to an object at all.


  1. David Bate | BUNGLED MEMORIES (2009) At: http://www.davidbate.net/ARTWORKS/BUNGLED-MEMORIES.html (Accessed on 2 August 2018)
  2. Laura Letinsky → ILL FORM AND VOID FULL (2010) At: http://lauraletinsky.com/photographs/ill-form-and-void/ (Accessed on 2 August 2018)
  3. Still Life with a Fish, Pieter Claesz., 1647 (s.d.) At: https://www.rijksmuseum.nl/en/collection/SK-A-1857 (Accessed on 2 August 2018)
  4. Still Life with a Turkey Pie, Pieter Claesz., 1627 (s.d.) At: https://www.rijksmuseum.nl/en/collection/SK-A-4646 (Accessed on 2 August 2018)



Make a series of photographs of textures and colours, objects and forms. These can be
close or wide shots of essential things like clothes, bricks, bark, grass, sky, etc. Try to
render everything ‘abstract’ or not entirely recognisable by altering your viewpoint.
Reduce the file size of the images.
• Save As…JPEG
• Image Size > 1500 pixels
Place the photographs together in a grid. Aim to make a composition of at least nine
rectangle or square images.
Consider how the colours and textures, objects and forms work together and as a whole.
• Which pictures seem closer and which appear further away?
• Which colours stand out and which colours (or tones) recede?
Save the arrangement with a different file name; call it Patchwork_1.


I decided to make a series of images based around water but which also included something square or rectangular.

I think the cream and browns work well together. The green in the top left image stood out a bit too much for me at first but I then noticed the green on the steps in the bottom right image and I felt a lot happier.

I think each image has a colour that stands out more than the rest. Top left image has the green of the statue but I think the pigeon actually leaps out more. The middle top image, the water stands out but I keep being drawn to the yellow bits. Top right image, the ivory  in the middle stands out from the creamy colour around it. Bottom middle, the pale cement stands out from the grey slabs that fill the image.

Final Images

Patchwork - Water Features

Other Images

The two sets of images below don’t fit the brief for this exercise but were something that I tried out while working out how to put images together in a grid in Photoshop. Something that turned out to be very simple in the end.

I found the duck lying on the waterside when we were in Norfolk. While taking some photos to see if my ideas for assignment 4 were workable and what I would have to do in order for them to become workable I found this poor creature. It can’t have been dead for too long as the carcus has not started to decompose and it had not been bothered by dogs or any other animals, ants were in the process of exploring the corpse.

When I put the individual images together, there are four images making up the grid and not just a repetition of two, which it might appear at first glance I put the close up of the duck top right and bottom left but after looking at it wasn’t sure whether that was best so created the second set of images with the close up top left and bottom right.

Like a lot of the work that I’ve produced as during the exercises and assignments for the course I can see that there is potential to take it further and explore death and decomposition whether limited to birds or the wider animal kingdom.

Dead Duck
Still Life – Dead Duck #1
Dead Duck 2
Still Life – Dead Duck #2

The image below I produced after taking my first set of images for this exercise. Again this doesn’t fit the brief because it is the same object that is being photographed, just from different positions.

Patchwork - Water Feature
Still Life – Patchwork #1


Contact Sheets

Patchwork Contact Sheet #1Patchwork Contact Sheet #6Patchwork Contact Sheet #5Patchwork Contact Sheet #4Patchwork Contact Sheet #3Patchwork Contact Sheet #2

Shape of Light

From the 2nd May to the 14th October 2018 at the Tate Modern.

Tickets £18 at time of visit.


“The world we see is made of light reflected by the things we look at: Photography records this light, holding and shaping these fleeting images. Shape of Light: 100 Years of Photography and Abstract Art explores the history of artists who have worked with light to create abstract work. These photographers prioritise shape, form and expression over recognisable subject matter. Some use the camera lens to transform reality. Others work with photographic materials to create images with little obvious reference to the real world.

Shape of Light reveals photography’s role in a wider history of abstraction. The photographic artists in the exhibition have engaged with advances in abstract art across a range of art forms; from painting and sculpture, to film and installations. At times these photographers have responded to new discoveries by their peers working in different media. Occasionally they have pre-empted them.”

The above description is from the leaflet that you receive on entry to the exhibition.

Every trip I’ve had to London recently I’ve told myself that I’d visit the Tate Modern to have a look around. At the end of July, I managed to do that, but only for an hour in between other activity.

Tate Modern is an impressive building, huge and spacious, it would be easy to spend a day wandering around.

While a lot of exhibits are free some exhibitions incur a cost, this is the case with the Shape of Light.

At the time of visiting there were several exhibitions, including one about Picasso and another by Joan Jonas. It was the Shape of Light, however, that I wanted to see.

The exhibition space consists of 12 rooms, each with a different theme.

This review will not be comprehensive but will focus on some of the artwork that drew my attention.

But first, I want to share something from the day.

I wasn’t visiting the exhibition on my own, my partner was with me as we were away for her birthday. I was expecting her to get bored quickly, but I was surprised when she started looking at various artworks and commenting on them.

Martha Hoepffner’s Homage to Kandinsky she described as looking like a boat, while the piece alongside it looked like a guitar.

The piece below, looked like SpongeBob SquarePants and a tree.


Another photo alongside Constantin Brancusi’s Maiastra looked like it included penguins.

With this terrible influence on me I found myself seeing different things in photographs, something that team behind the exhibition were encouraging in the Activity section of the leaflet when they stated “Photography is all about finding new ways of looking… Does looking differently change how you think about the artwork?” In this case it certainly inspired a new way of looking.

Throughout the exhibition there were works by artists whose names I recognised.

Alfred Stieglitz’s Equivalents provided four images, of which three are shown below. This project was one that took 8 years and resulted in over 300 photos of clouds.

These particular images struck a chord with me because I’d recently come across an article about cloud formations, and had read something about Stieglitz’s cloud images. Having taken a cloud photograph a few years ago that I was particularly proud of it was nice to know that even great photographers do similar work at times and is something I might do for the Emulation exercise later in part 4 of the course.

The series of images above was also interesting and shows how capturing something in an abstract way changes how it’s seen. The images are part of a series called Bodies and are by Bill Brandt. They were taken on beaches and appear to be rocks and large pebbles. In fact, on closer inspection it is possible to see that they are parts of peoples bodies. The top left is someone’s bent legs, the top right is a close up of a mouth and nose.

The above photograph was where my mind started to go into overtime. At first the two blobs in this chemigram by Pierre Cordier looked like pandas to me. After seeing it a few times they now look like Teddy Bears, one which is wearing a bowler hat. Facing them are either rats, dogs lying down or Falkor, the luckdragon, from The NeverEnding Story.

The exhibition comes with a catalog. Published by Tate Publishing in 2018 and entitled Shape of Light – 100 Years of Photography and Abstract Art ISBN 978 1 84976 369 1.

The exhibition is well worth a visit if you are interested in photography and especially how it can be used for abstract art. I found it very inspirational, especially seeing  work that some photographers and artists have done, which I could use as part of developing my own photography and finding my own personal photographic voice. I also wish I’d had more time to wander around the exhibition as I don’t feel that I got everything I could have from it. At some point I have to arrange a trip to London with the express purpose of visiting the Tate Modern and spending the day wandering around.

Constructed imagery


Traditional still life presents a small-scale space to explore the composition and meaning
of objects. But still life doesn’t have to be bowls of fruit and vases of flowers. You can
place any object or combination of objects in any setting. And both can be constructed. It
may be useful to think of still life as having two key elements – object(s) and setting – and
go wherever your imagination takes you with them


Choose a space that you can work with over time. You don’t need the traditional wall and
table yet, just a cleared space.
What does your space present you with? A wall? A floor? A corner? Put your camera on
a tripod and aim it at this empty space. Now add to this space one large flat object. It
could be a sheet, a painting turned back to front, an up-turned table or a large piece of
paper stuck to the wall. Don’t place anything in the middle of space to act as an ‘object’ but rather compose your setting with surfaces, colours and textures. Have a look in the
viewfinder. Note every element in the frame:
• the way surfaces create angles, lines, shapes and planes
• the way planes create a dimensional ‘space’
• the effect of different lighting on this setting.
Take a photo. This should be an entirely artificial, constructed image even with no proper sense of gravity.


• Now choose a simple object and carefully place it into this composition. Avoid
clichéd objects. Take a photo, then remove the object.
• Replace it with another object, something very different. Place this object in such
a way that it’s not emphasised. (Did your first photo emphasise the object?) Take a
• Now fill the space with a lot of different things (mattresses, furniture, crockery, books,
plants, anything handy) and try to create an entirely constructed ‘environment’. Think
about how objects coincide as planes, lines and points in your frame. It may be very
messy, but it should depict a ‘place’ with an identity that only exists inside the frame
of your camera.
• Look at these pictures and you will see that gradually you have removed any trace of
the original space. It could be anywhere. Just like a painter, you have taken control
over every part of the picture.

Clear the setting. Keep the space free for your use as a ‘studio’ for a few days and
experiment with different backgrounds, objects and lighting. Try to create different self-
contained, unique environments. Experiment with creating a new sense of space.

Final images

The space I used for this was the top of a chest of drawers that is next to a wardrobe in one of the bedrooms at home. It’s at the opposite side of the room to the window so light from the window is blocked in part by the wardrobe, as can be seen from the shadow in the first few images.

That provided the opportunity to look at the effect of light on a couple of objects, just by moving them around.

The photos of the juggling equipment allowed me to fill the space so that it went from bare white area to something full of colour and shape.

With the photos of the ships I wanted to contruct something different. I’m not totally happy with it. I think it changes the area but it would be better if the background to the area was also changed so it’s not so noticeable.

Contact Sheets

Final Selection-1Final Selection-2


Experimenting with Street Photography

Taking photos when I’m out and about that include people and things isn’t something I find the most comfortable doing. I’ve had to take photos at events as part of the Foundation in Photography course and that was fine because it was for exercises.Wandering around with the intention of taking photos of people and things in the street is not something I normally do.

During two recent trips I decided I’d try and overcome that.


Recently I had to go to London for work. The office I had to go to was a fifteen minute walk from Waterloo station so I headed up to the Thames and walked along the river. While I was walking I was looking out for photo opportunities.

Banks of the Thames-7824

Banks of the Thames-7825

I spotted the trailer and decided to stop and take a couple of photographs. I think the first with both bikes is slightly better composition wise.

Banks of the Thames-7829Banks of the Thames-7830

A bit further on from the spotty trailer I saw these two people sitting on benches and thought it made for a nicely balanced photo. In the first one I took the shot a little bit early, a fraction later and the cyclist would have been nicely in the middle of the shot.

For the second image I was able to take a bit longer over composing the image as neither of the people sitting had noticed me, and if they had they likely would have taken me for a tourist phtoographing the London skyline.


During our trip to Norfolk we visited Cromer and went out onto the pier. As we were walking along I had my camera down by my side and decided to try out a technique I’d read about where you shoot from the waist or hip, and where you happen to be facing in a different direction to the one the camera is pointing. In this case I was a bit far from the chap on the left and so have cropped the photo to get a cloer view. The reason I clicked the shutter when I did was because he had walked ahead of the group he was with and began to dance around.

Cromer Street Dance-8224

On both occasions it was interesting. Although I’m more aware of my surroundings and the opportunities for photographs, I’d normally miss chances like these because my camera wouldn’t be out and ready to take a shot. It was nice to be out and about with the intention of taking shots if the chance came up and so having my camera at the ready.




In this first exercise, you’ll use fragments of still life images to create a combined design.
• Arrange a still life set-up that includes a background (preferably an ironed white or
black sheet) and three distinct objects. It would be helpful if at least one object was
sized at least 0.5m or you’ll be photographing everything in macro.
• Use either sunlight from a window or one single source of electric light to cast
shadows and bring out the 3D form of the objects.
• Photograph around the objects, both close and wide shots, not all from the front.
• Capture the edges and the lines of the objects as well as defined shapes within them
– for example the sound holes of a violin.
• Capture edges where light and shadow create a sense of depth or recess.
• Take pictures of the textures and colours of the objects.
• Think of this project as collecting impressions and perceptions of these objects and
let this guide your camera.
• You’ll need approximately 20 well-exposed images.
The idea behind this exercise is to imaginatively combine the different photographs
into a single conclusive design. Have a look at some Cubist paintings and sculpture as
inspiration. Notice how one object blends into another and how different viewpoints
of the same object co-exist in surprising ways. The classic example of this is Picasso’s
combination of the front and profile of a face, as in Weeping Woman, which you can see
on the Tate’s website. Then look at Brendan Fowler’s Spring 2011 – Fall 2012 on the New
York Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) website, which attempts similar arrangements
using photography.
Combine the photos by arranging prints or by using Photoshop to assemble the images
as different layers. Cut the images and choose only fragments of each image, matching
up lines so they flow and placing shapes in meaningful juxtapositions as defined points
in the composition. You should find the composition grows into a large picture.
When you’ve finished the design, photograph it or save it as a finished picture.


Picasso’s Weeping Woman

Tate (2018) shows Picasso’s painting Weeping Woman. The painting is the last of several he made that was based on one of the figures in his painting Guernica. The woman’s features are based on those of Dora Marr, Picasso’s lover.

The woman appears as a mix of portrait and frontal view and has a hand held up to her face. The central part of the face, which almost appears as if it had been sketched out but no filled in, is white. This part of the face also appears to be made up of the fingers of her other hand.

Although the face is clearly identifiable, when I focus on specific parts, for instance the eyes or the mouth, there is a sense of disjointedness, which disappears when I look at the painting as a whole.

Brendan Fowler’s Spring 2011 – Fall 2012

Fowler’s work by contrast is a lot simpler, and cleaner. MOMA (2018) shows his Spring 2011 – Fall 2012 work which consists of what looks like framed photos, or at least photos that have been printed with a small border that appears like a frame. The top  image has been torn and positioned so that it continues the circle created by the photo of the mirror that it overlays.

Unlike Picasso’s painting there is something serene about this work, it does not jar the viewer’s senses.

20 Images

Finished Picture(s)



With hindsight I could have cut the pictures in ways that would have allowed me to fit them together into a better overall image.

When I combined the individual images I tried several combinations. Firstly, in a way that attempted to reconstruct the individual items. Secondly, in a way that grouped the different items together from left to right and finally, grouping items so that darker images were to one side and lighter images to the other.

Although an interesting exercise, simply from the point of capturing the way that light and shadow were created by each of the selected items, it wasn’t one of my favourite activities.

If I was to undertake the exercise again, rather than start with the objects I would start with an idea of what I wanted to end up with and then work backwards in order to create the images that would support that.


  1. Tate (2018) Weeping Woman [online] Available at: https://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/picasso-weeping-woman-t05010 Accessed: 4th July 2018
  2. MOMA (2018) Spring 2011 – Fall 2012 [online] Available at: https://www.moma.org/collection/works/174111 Accessed: 4th July 2018



We spent the start of July in Norfolk, only for the weekend but it gave enough time to visit different parts of the area we were staying.

On the Sunday we visited Blakeney Point on a boat trip to see the seals that can be found there.

In total I took about 100 photos, a lot of which didn’t quite come out. I’d had my camera in aperture mode but with hindsight should have switched to shutter priority and dialed the speed to something that would allow for the rocking of the boat.

Finding yourself in the right position to capture a shot wasn’t a simple matter. Although I’d sat right in the stern of the boat, the skipper was turning the boat around in circles at times in order to give the passengers on both sides of the vessel the chance to see the seals.

Having done a first pass through the images and filtering out those that weren’t in focus, I made a second pass downselecting to a set that were in focus and which I thought were interesting, after all there’s only so many ways you can photographs a row of seals from the same angle.

Post-processing has involved cropping images, adjusting saturation and vibrance and making adjustments using the tone curve. The results can be seen below. I’m trying out the Link to “None” option when inserting images .




Part 3 Feedback

I’ve had a chat with my tutor about assignment 3 and the work I did during the thrid part of the course. As the chat was online I’ve got the written feedback in bullet form which I’ve included below.

Assignment 3

  • Improvement in Photoshop skills, well suited to the idea you are exploring. The merge function has worked well and to good effect.
  • Overall images lack ‘punch’ this could be addressed through increasing contrast or some saturation. Consider what it it you are trying to convey – what is the relationship between the 2 figures.
  • It’s a strong idea but what is the dialogue/conversation between the 2?
  • How might you better direct the models to communicate your ideas. Were there any barriers in directing them more?
  • Both images are staged against very busy backgrounds which appear out of context/
    incongruous with the activity. Consider how you might overcome this whilst remaining true to your original vision.
  • Sequencing of images could be important in helping you develop and communicate your idea/concept.

As I’ve progressed through the course I’ve used the techniques that have been highlighted in the course notes and exercises. Some I’ve found useful, others not so much. Some techniques I use regularly, others very infrequently.

Recently I’ve been making use of other techniques to improve the quality of my images, spot removal for instance.

One of the suggestions for the next assignment is to make use of the tone curve in order to improve the tonality and contrast in my images. I’ve started doing that with some photographs I took of seals while staying in Norfolk. I also looked at adjusting the saturation and vibrance in a couple of images, which I think make them better.

With regards to the assignment I had considered a number of techniques that would allow me to overlay the images. However, being of the keep it simple school of thought, decided to go with what I felt was the easiest.

The concept behind the series of images is one that I will try and explore further, with other subjects as well as the two that I’ve already used. However, before I undertake further shoots I need to refine the brief and also come up with a bit more of a narrative.

I think the point about directing the models better is a fair one. Although there wasn’t any probems communicating what I wanted, I gave a very high level of instruction and let them do what they wanted. Having a better idea of what I want to achieve I hope will allow better direction.

In general I think I hadn’t given enough thought about what I was trying to convey and the story I wanted to get across. I had a subject for the photographs (performers) and an idea of what I wanted to do (have the same person performing and viewing themselves) but hadn’t gone beyond that. Something I need to work at in the next section of the course.

Projects/ Exercises

Part 1. Series and sequence: good attempt at maintaining the crop – not easy in a
public space. Seasonal change is a well known example to explore. Returning
to previous ideas and exploring them in projects/exercises is beneficial. Good
to shoot a range of options – good that you reflected on that advice! Images
lack contrast, add slight a curve?

Part 2. Difficult as your sitter is sensitive to appearance, what did you feel about this
exercise, might you have chosen a different sitter?

Part 3. Couldn’t be accessed.

With Part 2, using another sitter would have meant arranging a time convenient to both of us when they could have dropped in and we could have taken the photos. The brief requiring us to take photos, and then allow the person being photographed to doctor the images in whatever way they saw fit required access to a printer or some other means of producing a print. Without ready access to this, the exercise involves a lot of scheduling of time and availability of everyone involved.

Part 3 just wasn’t there. When reading through the course notes I missed the part about researching Richard Billingham’s photos. I’ve remedied that now.

Learning Log/Blog

You continue to maintain a well populated learning log that features detailed notes and
thoughts on a range of exhibitions and visits. Interesting to read your reflections on Arbus – what do you think on her approach to her ‘subjects’, to those on the outskirts of the society of which she was a part. Do you find the work voyeuristic or do you think she had empathy with them? She is a much discussed/cited photographer, often much is made of the manner of her death but how much has this shaped our discourse around her?

Consider some of these issues when looking at the work and try to get less bogged down in the detail around her wider life story (husband, children, work etc.). This is important to some degree, but it is background information. What we are discussing here is the work on its own terms – what do you understand/feel when you look at her work – what response do you have to it?

Arbus was an interesting person, reading the biography showed that. What I didn’t do was move beyond the biodgraphy and explore her work in enough detail, critiquing some of her images. I’ll look to do that in another post, and also remember to do something similar with other photographers whose biographies I read. Although understanding who they are or were is important, exploring their work is the way to develop ourselves as photographers, looking at what it is appeals or intrigues us, draws us to them.

In response to the questions posed:

I don’t feel that her work is voyeuristic. I believe that she was drawn to the people that she chose to photograph because she had a certain empathy with them. They weren’t part of mainstream society, and she herself didn’t fit how society might have dictated she should behave. By photographing “freaks” and people who were different she was highlighting how diverse society is. Although her photos could be seen as voyeuristic I don’t think that she would have been able to capture the images she did without instilling trust in the people she photographed. No matter how good a photographer you might be, without your subject trusting you, you’ll never truly personal and intimate images.

I think the manner of her death will colour any discussion of her work. If you know something about a person, how they lived and even died then it will have an influence on how you see their work. If you know the circumstances around a photograph they’ve taken, you begin to see it differently.

For instance if you were to see an image of someone in the street and they appeared angry then you’d wonder what has caused them to be angry. If that person was part of a crowd at a demonstration then that anger could be directed at the target of the demonstration, police or armed forces that were policing the demonstration, people who were protesting against the demonstration. You could not be sure but could come up with multiple reasons. However, if you were then told that moments after the photograph was taken they ripped the camera away from the photographer you see the image differently and an entirely different set of reasons for their anger opens up.

If Arbus had died of old age, illness or in an accident then her work would be seen in a different light. Arbus taking her own life, colours how we see her work because it becomes the product of someone who struggled throughout her life, who didn’t always have control over the work she produced but did have control over the way her life ended. It also lends a degree of tragedy to her work and leave the question of how successful a photographer would she have become if she’d not committed suicide.

Suggested reading/viewing

You might enjoy the film on Diane Arbus ‘Fur’
A recent show in London at The Barbican ‘Photography on the Margins, more here: https://www.barbican.org.uk/our-story/press-room/another-kind-of-life-photography-on-the-margins
Do some more research around the show, read some reviews (it has since closed)
investigate some the practitioners listed further.
For the next assignment – have a look at the work of OCA tutor, Andy Hughes here:

I’ll be looking at ‘Fur’ when the opportunity presents itself. An initial look at the trailer and reviews show a film that is a very artistic spin on Arbus; although based in part on fact, is focussed on a short period of her life, and which doesn’t touch upon her eventual suicide in any way.

For assignment 4 I want to try and build on some of the photos I took in Cyprus that reflect man’s impact on the environment. Although the assignment relates to still life I look to take this outside the confines of a studio/home and instead capture images in situ, but in a way that leaves the subject matter isolated from the environment and so making it unclear as to whether it is natural or constructed.

The biggest challenge being finding locations and creating the still life, do I capture objects as is or build something from them.

Photography as visual research

Photography is often used as a tool to document the specificity of visual appearances. We’re all familiar with this use in passport photography, anthropological photography and crime photography. There’s no pretence at aesthetic quality: the photographer points the camera at the subject and tries to take a neutral ‘visual document’ which stands as visual evidence for what it represents.

This mode of making pictures can be useful to all photographers as a means to research their subject. Whether this results in ‘finished’ pictures or not doesn’t really matter; it’s a means to gain visual knowledge. Take a look at Richard Billingham’s Ray’s a Laugh – a collection of family portraits originally taken as visual research for a painting project

It’s important to make a distinction here between what we can know through experience
and verbal language and what is specifically visual. Thoughts aren’t visual and neither are emotions, although you can photograph the physical manifestations of these. Just look at Billingham’s telling pictures of his dad to see this at work. Political ideologies aren’t visual either but you can photograph people and events that illustrate them.

Rickard (2010) and Hodsdon (2014) show a selection of images from Richard Billingham’s “Ray’s a Laugh”. An image search using Google (other search engines are available) brings up a lot more.

At first glance the images look very much like the snapshots that we are all familiar with that our parents or grandparents might have taken in the days before digital cameras. If I was to open up any of the photo albums or go into some of the boxes of photos I have at home I’d be able to find any number of photographs that have a similar feel to them.

And I think that is an important point. Looking at the images, the decor of the home, the poses, they seem familiar, comforting in some ways but also unsettling in others.

Comforting in that they bring back memories of growing up.

Unsettling in that they are almost voyeuristic, allowing the viewer to peer into moments that are intimate, personal. While also giving a sense of being part of things.

They also provide that intimate feeling because the images are sharing events that a lot of us can relate to but also events that most people would not want to share with the world.


  1. Rickard, D (2010) Richard Billingham: “Ray’s a Laugh” (2000) [online] Available at: https://www.americansuburbx.com/2010/07/richard-billingham-rays-laugh.html [Accessed 3rd July 2018]
  2. Hodsdon, C (2014) “Ray’s a Laugh” [online] Available at: https://www.juxtapoz.com/news/photography/ray-s-a-laugh/ [Accessed 3rd july 2018]

Hoots ‘N’ Hooters

Hoots ‘N’ Hooters June 23rd 2018

The 37 Club, Puriton, Somerset


Performances from:
Belle blonde
Miss Pronounced
Betty Boom Boom
Bambi Bang Bang
Lady May
Transcendent Ties Shibari
Lady Lolly Rouge
Issy Max
Valentino De Labaise
Ophelia Wilde
and compered by the amazing Dis Charge

Produced by Whipp It Out Promotions


June 23rd and it was time for another Hoots ‘N’ Hooters. As usual the performances were amazing, Dis Charge was on form and we even got to play a game of Dis Charge bingo.

I took a series of photographs, initially with my 50mm prime lens but then with a 70-200mm lens. The latter being capable of f/2.8 which was ideal for the 37 Club. All shots were taken at 1600 ISO with the camera set to Aperture priority mode.

The first lot of photographs I took with the 70-200mm lens were focused manually. During the interval I Google how to get the lens to work in autofocus mode, the remainder of the photographs were taken this way.

A number of images were discarded because they weren’t in focus, because the colours didn’t look right or because I didn’t like the composition.

The above are the edited end result following adjustment to the exposure, highlights, shadows, black and white levels in Lightroom. Cropping and spot removal were performed on a number of images.