Reflection: Exercise 1.1 & 1.3 (Some outtakes)

Here are a few images that I took while thinking about the exercises, before and during the day when I shot the ones the I chose. (From seeing other people’s blogs I wonder if I’m not meant to also submit a contact sheet? We were not required to do that in TAOP, and then I moved on to UCV which was a writing course – something to look into.) I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do so tried several approaches. In the end I settled down and worked mostly upstairs with the strobes as I became more confident with playing with them. It was the most beneficial aspect of the day. I will set up more sessions where I simply do that as soon as the assignment is in. Apart from the one directly below these have not been in PS, only Lightroom and some may benefit from a little more processing. I have to say, I have been so busy with work – this week editing and selling a Holy Communion shoot, then Calais/Dunkirk for Just Shelter and then a book launch party for Penguin – which is great but it means this college work has to take a back seat and finding time to edit is proving tricky.

Again this a mixture of people I know well, not much and not at all.

(c)SJField 2017



Exercise 1.1 & 1.3

1.1 Produce a series of five portraits of strangers from a variety of backgrounds. These people must differ from you in some significant respect e.g. age, gender, sexual orientation, ethnic background, social class etc. 

1.3 Gerry badger points out “there are divisions other than class, ideology, race’ etc – using this a framework make five portraits of people with whom you feel you have an affinity, where you could conceivable be on the inside. 

Before I link to the 11 portraits I am including for this exercise I want to talk a little about why I am submitting these together.

I do not like the term ‘other’ at all although I know it is used constantly in this field by philosophers, artists, teachers. I said recently I wanted to stop using it in these terms altogether. The primary and ultimate other in my life, my mother, laughed, and said, “aren’t you on a course called something or Other?” Yes, I mumbled feeling dispirited and  annoyed with it all.

Exercise 1 – Produce portraits of strangers. I do produce portraits of strangers as often as I can convince people to pay me to do so. I enjoy doing it most of the time although as I said at the beginning of the course there are times when I have to steel myself to enter into people’s lives, perhaps because of the mood I’m in or because I pick up that I’m different to the clients in some way. Yes, they are ‘other’ to me somehow. But in all but one or two cases during the last 3 years, once working, I am able to overcome any trepidation and can usually find a way to connect and find an affinity regardless of whether I’m in a posh expensive house in Wandsworth, an office in the City or a field in Northern France.

My problem with the word is that all people are essentially other to me and to everyone. I separated from my mother in toddlerhood and thereafter there are in my mind, others and me (as it is for everyone with a relatively sound mind). There is much to say about ‘groupishness’ a term coined by Edward O Wilson, and I will explore that more as we move forward with the course. But suffice to say here, if we keep reinforcing the concept of other in terms of group difference then we only add to the problems humanity faces as it clings to a Hegelian Master/Slave dialectic which  is the source of so much trouble.

Therefore I have presented 11 images here that represent both others and people who I have an affinity with. They are a mix of strangers and people I know a little or very well. It is up to the viewer to reach conclusions about who they think is other or not to me. I was intrigued by the Szondi Test – where images are used to ascertain a character type depending on which images the test subject chose, and how they responded to the faces. Rather than being able to tell something about the portrait, a response to the portraits tells us something about the viewer.

I used this exercise to experiment with lighting as I am far more comfortable with natural light and these are taken with strobes. This was a useful task for me.

Some issues with using the particular venue as that it is upstairs and in a pub so not suitable for everyone (but the space is free for me whereas other spaces such as the one I used this morning are prohibitively expensive – a studio space is a luxury). This meant I took some images downstairs and planned to take some more in another venue but in the end I have submitted the following as they work as series, and demonstrate something relevant for the exercise. But it is not ideal. I have other images that I may make use of elsewhere.

I have a Release and Agreement Form for all but one of these images and can make sure I rectify that as it is a neighbour. I will not post them online though as they give away personal infomation.

Click on image to view  (c)SJField 2017


Reflection: Exercises 1.1 & 1.3 (shoot day)

Yesterday I spent several hours working in a space much larger (for myself rather than for work) than I have had the opportunity to before. I was upstairs at the Grosvenor Arms pub, a place which I documented, before, during and after it was refurbished. I wasn’t sure how I wanted to approach the exercises so tried several different approaches in my time there. I could conceivably complete the exercises now but I wanted to include some other people for whom the pub was not an ideal space and will be taking some more photographs next week in a different space. I will take a look at the collection I’ve gathered after that and find 10 to suit the two exercises.

I would like to say in response to a comment made elsewhere about getting out and taking photos rather than writing  – I take a lot of photos on a daily basis, personally and for work, and am working more and more lately. Every single time I do I learn something more. I am also noticing patterns and connecting to the themes and ideas for the assignments and projects. Not taking photos is not my problem. For me this course is of no use whatsoever unless I can use it to expand on and explore the ideas that inform my life, work and the way I can find a way to connect previous experience, the photograph as an object in the world, the activity – a form of expression, artistic practise, commercial practise etc.

Here are a few shots from yesterday – they’ve had a quick breeze through Lightroom only at this point and I will no doubt return to edit.

(c)SJField 2017


Rosie – Natural light through the window


Alfred – Single strobe


Elisa – Single Strobe

Reflection notes: Representation, methods and reliability

The other night I attended an evening dedicated to exploring Motor Neurone Disease through short lectures, poetry and a  play, including art by Sarah Ezekiel, the woman who I discussed in an earlier post who has lived with the disease for 14 years. Sarah Ezekiel was there and I went with my friend, who was diagnosed at the end of last year,  and another woman we both know.

The lecture by three scientists working with MND research was fascinating. The three things they talked about which stuck with me and related to what I’m looking at here in this module, and generally were:

  • Seeing and looking are not passive activities –  I loved that phrase, it sums it up so succinctly.
  • Art is profoundly important for human beings, the expression and exploration of what and how we see integral to our neurology and evolutionary history
  • In the complex organ that is our brain there are 30 areas linked just to the activity of seeing.

The play reminded me of what I don’t like about acting – I won’t say much about it but it felt that the production had no genuine connection to the reality of MND despite all the words being accurate, well researched, and the company were no doubt well-intentioned.

Sarah Ezekiel gave a pre-prepared talk using the eye-response technology which has made her life so much richer and fuller than it otherwise might have been. My friend, whose name is Jenny, was deeply moved by it.

Two things that have become more embedded in my mind about presentation:

  • Is it ever possible to truly convey the reality of a situation through representation? Yes, but it’s fraught with complications and I think happens truly successfully more rarely than we might imagine.
  • Brechtian ‘reporting’  in an epic theatre: as an actor in training, I think it is very hard to comprehend quite what Brecht meant when he advised that actors should report rather than emote. As described here:

    “The demonstrator need not be an artist. The capacities he needs to achieve his aim are in effect universal. Suppose he cannot carry out some particular movement as quickly as the victim he is imitating; all he need do is to explain that he moves three times as fast, and the demonstration neither suffers in essentials nor loses its point. On the contrary it is important that he should not be too perfect. His demonstration would be spoilt if the bystanders’ attention were drawn to his powers of transformation. He has to avoid presenting himself in such a way that someone calls out ’What a lifelike portrayal of a chauffeur!’ He must not ’cast a spell’ over anyone. He should not transport people from normality to ’higher realms’. He need not dispose of any special powers of suggestion.” (Willet, 1964)

    I think this is difficult to get your head round. Rosler’s Semiotics of the Kitchen gets close to it although she is imposing an intention on her delivery so it is not entirely reporting. I do think fellow student Stephanie D’Hubert gets it spot on when she reads the nightmares she has collected online in the voice-over that accompanies the images she has found. For an actor, a type often addicted to expressing big emotions (generalisation, I know), this is tricky to allow her/himself to do and perhaps other art forms are more suited to this type of philosophy. However, I understand the actors in Brecht’s company were riveting and powerful and I wish I would have seen them working to understand this more.

  • Acting seems to be in many cases a skill where a mask is constructed and worn by the artist in order to reveal a universal truth about existence, and photography in many cases, especially nowadays seems to be aimed at finding moments caught by the artists, where the social mask has slipped in order to reveal universal truths. There are of course lots and lots of variations relating to this. And here are two examples that demonstrate the breadth of photo practise one can see: Jemima Stehli in Strip reveals the slipped masks of the men that photograph themselves. Cindy Sherman in all her work is more of an actor, exploring the masks woman are handed by culture. The other day when I worked with 8 year olds the children performed and wore masks and acted and then I photogrpahed them, but I was also asked to capture one particular class just standing so the teacher could cut them out and place them in landscapes we’d asked them to create. These were so interesting. I always love the awkwardness of children standing in line, the lack of control of their bodies as they are still formulating their cultural selves and so limbs move for little apparent reasons constantly; and seeing those genuine moments for me were more interesting than the masked images. Sadly I can’t post them here.


Brecht, B. 1950. “The Street Scene: A Basic Model for an Epic Theatre.Brecht on Theatre: The Development of an Aesthetic. Ed. and trans. John Willett. London: Methuen, 1964. ISBN 0-413-38800-X. pp. 121–129. (Accessed 23/6/2017) Available at

D’Hubert, S, 2017 More Video’s with Self Reflection (Accessed 23/6/2017) Available At:

Exercise 1.4

We are asked to request that someone from the first exercise (where we must photograph people we think of as other) to document 1 hour of their lives on their phone.

I have chosen throughout this section to ask, what do we actually mean by other? (I realise this may come across as deliberately obtuse but hopefully my thinking will be clarified when I discuss this with the assignment) Part of that inquiry entailed sending out a survey online (I stuck to Facebook only at this point as this was/is an early venture/experiment and so I tried to contain it slightly.) In the survey I requested that people, if they felt happy to, sent in phone images from one hour of their lives to satisfy this exercise. I did not expect very many to respond to this question as it might have seemed fiddly, taken time and potentially made make people feel uncomfortable. Therefore, I was extremely grateful to those that did respond.

Having looked though the images I have chosen the following from one respondent to include here. I did not choose the most technically proficient  – some were very well composed and nicely edited, or the most revealing (as I don’t wish to expose anyone under these circumstances and people were kind enough to respond so generously). What I have chosen to show though are some that I thought were quite interesting in the way they were made, with some humour, quirkiness and honesty.

In preperation for this exercise, we are asked to look at Wendy Ewald who works collaboratively, handing out cameras to her subjects and working with them to create images. She does this to overcome the problems discussed by Sontag and Rosler, as referred to in course notes, where artists might be accused of making voyeuristic work. Martha Rosler finds ingenious ways to photograph issues without using regonisable individuals in The Bowery, for instance, when she photographed the spots that beggars usually waited and asked for money in front of shops windows and at times I have been influenced by this approach in Calais and Dunkirk.

Whilst I don’t deny that enabling self narration as Ewald does, is in many cases a great way to give people a voice, their own voice, and to respect their individuality and presence in the world, this approach can risk effectively asking people to dig their own graves. So, it’s not a failsafe approach.  There are other downsides probably associated with any photography and meaning, in relation to images minus context. As with everything, the intention behind the making of work, regardless of method, is what matters. Does the image maker/artist/photographer exists in an Hegelien power over the other world? Or have they advanced beyond that and do they exist in a power within world? Perhaps they have one foot in either paradigm? There are many complexities in relation to these questions.

Here are images from one of the respondents – I have used all but one that were sent to me and I have sequenced them. Other than that they are as sent.

Projects: 1.1 & 1.3 test shoot

Last Friday evening I went along to the pub where I will be doing some portraits to satisfy the requirements for the above. I wanted to just get a feel for working in that space on my own rather than at an event. It’s not a perfect space but it is much better than what I have access to elsewhere by a long shot – space wise. And Brendan, the landlord, is very keen for his space to become an artistic community hub – so I am lucky to have access to it.

I am still thinking about how I approach these exercises although I’m fairly certain I will present them together as one exercise and will give my reasons when I do. I may also use the space for one set of the assignment images. (I am shooting the first set  on Friday this week, not at the pub, which feels a bit weird.)

Here are some examples from the other evening. I have no idea which if any, will be included in the end – let’s see.

There are more here:

(c) SJField 2017



Exercise 1.2

Research and create your own model release form.

These forms are based on the AOP document we’re directed to in the course folder, as well as drawing from a generic agreement list I have used for non-commercial and commercial work in the past. It includes a couple of points from my commercial T&Cs. They are drafts for now and I will no doubt return to them to check spelling, typos, etc before using them. I’m currently waiting for conformation I can use the space I hope to. If not I will need to look elsewhere. This is actually one of the biggest difficulties, again because my budget is quite near to nil so I am relying on favours and friends – which might become awkward. It’s like the Poor Theatre in many ways.

I do not use the word model and instead use participant because I hate ‘model’. It smacks of everything I’m trying to avoid or counter. I ams also concerned by the pseudo-legalese. It’s tricky.

Release and Agreement Form for Photography

Release and Agreement Form for Artwork Events