Reflection: Video making course with Photofusion

Today I went on the first day of a video course to explore pre-production with Photofusion. I will be doing further days later in the month. A few weeks later in mid December I will attend an editing day. I will need to have shot some footage to edit together for the final day, aiming to make a short promotional video. I have decided to make some work that would serve as a kind of ‘proposal’, taking the Girlhood project as a starting point and developing it further. The Harvey Weinstein story has re-opened many of the triggers for that work for me, although perhaps it refers to a more personal and quite specific narrative, and I want to go back to it and look at how I can take it further. I think this might also fit in with A3, ‘Create a series of six images of you that show different selves.’ Girlhood already does that although using others as the ‘form’ for self.

One of the most profound discoveries for me while I was doing UVC was coming across Lindsay Seers’ work, especially Entangled² (Theatre II)|Matt’s Gallery London. When I saw it I had a major realisation; I might be able to bring all my own experiences together; acting, writing, photography and start making work that includes moving image as well as still. I was so pleased to be accepted onto the course as it meant I could start experimenting. (Thank you, Catherine Banks for alerting me to it!) I intend to use this opportunity to do so.


Reflection: TVG 16th September 2017

Yesterday I attended the OCA Thames Valley meeting for the first time in a while as I have generally been busy with work on previous dates. It was good to see old faces again and to meet new ones too. As always, there was a lot of incredibly creative work which was inspiring, and it also broadened my horizons. I’m going to talk about a few of the presentations although not all, and some only very briefly indeed, as well as the work I presented.

David Fletcher (I think that is his name! Apologies if it’s incorrect.) Technically, David’s image of his family in a pool room all absorbed in their own worlds with their screens, utterly separated from each other as we are all so accustomed to seeing people nowadays, is utterly incredible!  It’s really, really really good. I am envious of his skills. He clearly knows what he is doing with lighting and camera work. It is wide frame and captures a lot of detail, crisp as you can image and beautifully lit. The subject matter is interesting. It’s topical and relevant and worthy of study/art. It’s an amazing submission. However, and I hope I don’t offend David (which I may especially as I don’t even know if I’ve got his name right!!) this seems like Crewdson’s voice because it appears so closely mimicked. It is a flipping amazing homage to Crewdson and what’s more, David did it with a fraction of the budget Crewdson uses, making me question Crewdson’s methodology even more than I already have done. I think it is good to copy people. It’s a way to learn about what we want to do and say. It’s good to pick up skills and to stretch ourselves and realise we have access to this visual language too – and I think David will benefit enormously from this experiment. But if he is to find his own voice he will need to break free from merely copying work exceptionally well and, in much the same way I always need to, to take some risks that aren’t about emulating someone else really, really, impressively well. One thing that is different, Crewdson didn’t use people he knew until the latest exhibition which I discussed the other day. And Richard is focused on his family.  I think this is a useful place to remind myself of the difference between style and voice. The other work he showed was some documentary images about rounding up the ponies in the New Forest. The same old argument about colour vs. mono came up and he was visually irked by it but in my view these particular images were so beautiful in colour I asked why would anyone want to remove it? There seemed like lots of potential for a lovely tale about this very old tradition and showing it in colour further emphasises the fact there is so much history linked to the activity which continues today in our technologically advanced world, where colour photography is the norm.

Kate Aston – I will speak briefly about Kate’s work  – just to say it was a pleasure to see it in the flesh rather than just on-screen as it is so idiosyncratic and original. I know she has had some difficulties paring it down following feedback from her tutor but it is immensely interesting work that steps outside the box. I wish her the best with her submission.

Richard Down – I was just gobsmacked by how beautiful the books Richard had made for his landscape submission. One would need to consider the photography, as Richard himself said when we chatted via FB earlier, being it is that which will be marked in the main. And I did not look at it closely enough since we as a group felt it best not to hand the books around and risk damaging them or getting finger prints on the pages. However, from afar it is sublime in the greatest sense. Nevertheless, the presentation will have a big impact and Richard has done a truly beautiful and impressive job. He is submitting two books, both of which he has made himself from scratch. The first is a landscape black and white edition which details a walk that he made in honour of poet Edward Thomas (1878-1917) across the countryside, and who wrote about the same landscape. Richard has included words from poems by Thomas on the left hand side of the facing page for each image. The images are beautifully printed and the result is touching and seems deeply contemplative. Richard told us during his presentation that he used to do the walk with his late wife and Jayne mentioned that this added a whole new level to his work, and I think she was implying he might have made something of that fact in the book (I’m not sure if he did or not). I wonder about this. Perhaps just in a dedication page, but any more than that would not have been Richard’s personality and while I see that students are often encouraged to scrape their emotional insides out for the sake of their work, I think there are times when it is effective and times when it isn’t. In this case the immense care and attention to detail tells us all we need to know, I think. It signifies there is something much deeper than pretty pictures of the woods and some words by a soldier some of us have not heard of, although I am reliably informed was quite famous and is according to Catherine Banks the epitome of talent wasted in war waged by old men utilising young men (2017), who died before his time, going on. All of these things together seem to me an obvious indication that the books has deeper meaning. Baring our souls in a more obvious way is the trend in culture , high and low, but it is just that – a trend. Richard’s second book is a record of Deception Island. Again it is just so beautifully made, the same binding as before but with overlays of maps indicating where the image was taken. Here I wonder if he could have made more of the semiotics surrounding the word deception to give it more depth, or is that too obvious? I wonder what secrets are held inside the making of the book, as I suspect they will be there, but would need more time with it. It’s a wonderful object regardless, and I really think that someone other than a few OCA tutors should take a look at it.

Dawn Langley – I am always interested in Dawn’s work since she is often highly creative and has presented some interesting projects in the past. I am intrigued by her Graphic Design module. Not only has the step away from photography influenced her image-making, she has also learned to use other software which seems infinitely useful. (I dipped into InDesign this morning and although managed to do the very simple thing I was attempting, it was a challenge.) Learning how to use as much technology as possible does seem like an advantageous route to take nowadays. Dawn had to create covers for a series of books about aspects of graphic design such as typology and colour. The pages she showed us were so interesting, I actually wanted to buy the book she was proposing. I am envious of her new-found design skills and wish I could do such a course too. Dawn, like me, wished she might change pathways but the options were not available for what she wanted to do.

Some thoughts about studying – Dawn’s predicament seems to be a common theme for adult learners I have chatted to with the OCA. I wonder if undergraduate degree pathways for people who have already done degrees and/or have quite a lot of experience in work might be a bit limiting? I’m not sure. On one hand perhaps I am being greedy wanting to learn everything I see and need to focus in one direction in order to have any hope of achieving the levels I wish to, on the other, I really feel under pressure to earn a proper living and panicked that I am currently incapable of doing so. I can’t help thinking having as many strings to my bow as possible would make that more likely. Although a scatter gun approach of course isn’t always that helpful. Dawn, unlike me who chose to concentrate on child-rearing until I divorced and was forced into making some decisions about being self-employed, already has a job though and has not been out of the workplace for 15 years. For me a ‘job’ feels like a foreign land, but I do from time to time think about trying to get one since the money I earn from photography is not enough, and is unreliable and unpredictable. Ideally I would be able to work as a photographer and have some more reliable, regular work to supplement it but then studies might have to take a back seat. I have some teaching experience and so it makes sense to aim for that in the medium to long term but I will only realise that goal if I stick at the studies and also try to move a bit faster. I digress but it is something that is on my mind a lot and yesterday when we were discussing the course fees I started to think about what it is I’m paying for. I need to balance out affordability with possible end results, sadly, as I wish I were in a position to focus on learning for the sake of learning. But as my youngest boy gets older, this all begins to seem like more and more of a luxury that I can’t afford unless I can be more certain it will lead to paid work. In which case, perhaps this method, protracted long distance learning, is not the best way forward.

Which leads me to my own presentation: 

I showed some images for the Nexus exhibition I am working on with John Umney and Keith Greenough. I took these images earlier this week and then did another shoot on Friday (which I’ll discuss in a moment.) I wanted to suss out two things – would this work be suitable for Self & Other? And did the images convey what I hoped they would.

Second question first – I foolishly read out the temporary/draft statement  I posted on my website at the end of presentation. Jayne said it was very helpful, implying I think it was hard her to make sense of the images without. You can read it here. In this case, context is therefore incredibly important (and I am not sure how I feel about that).

Some points that came from others including Keith who was there, which was helpful, and who showed his images too.

  • (Keith) How will I bring the images together as the colours are different in various rooms? I am thinking about grouping them and presenting them as acts – this is a performance after all.
  • (Keith again) The images where you can’t see Honor’s face make her figure more representative of her generation, rather than an individual. This is a good point. I am not sure if out of the many images I’ve taken we have enough but it is something I will consider as I edit. She is young and trained, through dance, to look out so I often said, don’t look at me and try not not smile all the time.
  • Kate said she could imagine Honor leaping from my images into Keith’s empty spaces, which I rather liked.
  • Jayne advised me to be very, very strict when editing and choose carefully, not allowing anything in that shouldn’t be there.  I hope I can grab another hour with Honor, before the end of the month when really I cannot take any more images, as there is one set up I want to repeat. Although I have as always taken too many images I don’t know at this point if I will have all I’m looking for. I was frustrated by my efforts on Friday. In my words, I’ve cocked up too many and need to think about what I do to correct that. I have some that will work from Monday for sure. I need to think about things and have very little time left. It’s scary.
  • Micheal thought Keith’s work and mine worked well together. John was not there but I have echoed his work too in mine so hopefully it will all fit.
  • People were generally positive. We will see …

Secondly Sue said yes, she thinks I could submit this work for A2 and I agree. It might be suitable due to the questions I ask with it. I am also planning (if there is time) to interview Honor and her mother and put the audio against the images in a sideshow with links to relevant thinkers on the subject of education. I’ve been keeping notes on my linked blog in case I wished to do this. But I am a bit wary. Wendy will obliged to tell me what to do to stretch it, by which time it will be too late to make changes for Oxford House which might make me feel truly hideous (not that that is a real reason to avoid doing so). I have had a response from the prison too which I was thinking about for this assignment but it may work for future one if that went ahead. For the record, A2 asks: Produce a story with a social theme. Your project should combine portraits, objects and spaces, to describe your subject matter. You should produce a between 8-12 images to demonstrate an ethical practice. The last sentence would have been the only sticking point since I had intended to include strangers in street images  – some of whom agreed to join and some who had no idea although they are mostly a blur. In fact there is only one such image I like or am comfortable with. I could always do a different edit though. In the meatime I must get on with the exercises which I have started to look at.

There was so much good stuff to see yesterday; Catherine’s experiments which she termed a “Catalogue of Disasters” may have led no-where for her but were inspiring for their risk taking and original approach. Holly’s urbex images were interesting and she has some super found images to begin exploring. Steven’s plans for his next course are influenced by Emily AllChurch and look fascinating. And seeing Micheal’s ongoing Body of Work looking at torture of the gay people in Nazi Germany was as impressive as ever.

Finally, my new mantra must be – use a smaller aperture, use a smaller aperture, use a smaller aperture. I must say this to myself as often as possible until it gets in to my thick skull!!! Aaaargh!



Banks, C, 2017. Private conversation on FB Messenger

Reflection: Copyright

In AI I explored shared copyright and worked collaboratively, and some of the ideas that are contained in that project emerged from studying UVC. While doing so I contributed to a Kickstarter campaign aimed at creating a magazine which looks at the issue of copyright. It wasn’t that much money and I thought even it only makes it to one copy it is likely to have some useful articles which will be helpful to consider. I’ve not had a chance to look at it yet but here is a link in case anyone else wants to order it.


Reflection: How A1 could lead on to A2

The following is the A2 assignment brief: Produce a story with a social theme. Your project should combine portraits, objects and spaces to describe your subject matter. You should produce between 8-12 images to demonstrate an ethical practise.

Since many of the subjects I am interested in are difficult and leave potential subjects at risk in some way if they are revealed, my desire to use substitutes suddenly makes sense.

Ideas I have had include;

  • prisoners and the impact of jail time on family
  • people with personality disorders
  • women who have killed their own children due to extreme post natal depression
  • Zero hour contracts and in particular Deliveroo and Uber workers

Since I have already put in some time developing a relationship with the local prison, albeit tenuous still and very new, I have written a letter outlining a rough proposal sent via the charity I’ve worked with. In it I suggest working with a prisoner or several, in writing if necessary, to explore something of their feelings about their families. I would make images with any material I gathered and aim to bring it together although i do not for now know how.

Looking back at the A1 work I do feel it is too static and pedestrian, and I’d hope to develop from there.

We will see what happens. If that idea is not possible I might ask someone I know who has experience of prison although she was released severla years ago.

Once I have had an answer to my letter I will post my own here in full although of course,  may not be able to share any replies.

Stephanie’s (OCA DIC) recent post Mirror and Memories has been very useful and I will be following up the links and references. However, in my letter to the prison I state: I am interested in using substitutes to tell sensitive stories effectively, creatively but also ethically. The work I am aiming to make should not be fiction, but neither am I trying to make documentary or ‘docudrama’. Instead I am after creating a piece of art that might provoke people into thinking anyone might be in that situation at any time.

In other words, this woud aim to contiue looking at how we define others and trying to link these back to self.


Notes and background thoughts: S&O A1

Background notes for Assignment – Self & Other A1

 Create a short series (6-10) of environmental portraits of people in places that provide the context for us to understand them. Pose and details are important. Look again at examples from the history of photography as well as the contemporary practitioners listed (in the course document). Think carefully about whether you want to photograph people close to you or subjects who are distinctly other to you.

 These are background notes that support the work I have been doing. I will write a 500-word statement and bullet point list of steps taken during the process to accompany the actual work, which will be in the assignment post.

  • English/UK class focus vs. universal themes (power structures in cultures), others

Hannah Hoch reportedly said “… the purpose of art is not to ‘decorate’ or to replicate reality through ‘naturalistic little flowers, a still life or a nude, but to act as a document of the ‘spirit’ and the changing value of a generation.”(Hudson, 2014) The S&O course has so far felt incredibly restrictive and deeply focused in one relatively narrow direction – UK class structure. It has felt frustrating because the terms ‘self & other’ are universal, and I have had to constantly question what I am doing, and am plagued with feelings of uncertainty. Nevertheless, I have explored a collaborative working process, which has been a deliberate attempt to look at the structural way in which we understand the binary distinction between a self and an other. In an article titled, “The Only Solace We Get Is From Each Other”: Ellen Mara De Wachter on How Collaborative Artists Show the Way to a Better Society” by Lony Abrams for Artspace, we are told that working collaboratively is a way of deconstructing old systems of power. And attempting to forge a world that might be less glued to the Hegelian master/slave paradigm. De Watcher is quoted: “I would cite Guerrilla Girls as the oldest collective in the book that is still practicing. They’re so strident about that ([exploring a] declarative way to go against the system that values the individual genius?) and that’s their whole mission. Their agenda is anti-patriarchal. It’s a strong, feminist agenda. It’s anti-hierarchical. It’s really a democratic kind of group in which everybody has a voice. They use anonymity to facilitate that, and they hide behind masks. They paraphrase Oscar Wilde in saying that you’d be surprised by what comes out of people’s mouths when you give them a mask. That’s a liberating tool for them. I think they’re very much anti-systemic in that sense, and also very critical of the dominant trends in the art world, the market values, and so on.” (2017) (I refer to masks further down)

Working this way has at times been extremely rewarding, but it has also been annoying and awkward. Finding people to collaborate with is not easy or simple. Finding the right people to work with is also tricky. I have been lucky in the main and I am grateful to all the people who were involved including the anonymous responders to the initial survey and the artists who agreed to join me on this mini experiment. Perhaps, as with most study, we should be careful of implying moral judgement and merely note the cost/benefit ratios in various scenarios.

I believe I wrote to one co-partcipant, Stefan Schaffeld, that the reason I was exploring working this way because I wanted to look at the nebulous distinction between self and other. (I am also deeply interested in how the younger generation and many in my own are seemingly irritated by the increasingly apparent rejection of fixed signs.) Is there really a nebulous distinction? Victims of acute mental abuse might be able to explain how personalities can become enmeshed. In fact, it is probably fair to say that any in long standing relationship each party has significant influence and impact on the other, and boundaries between selves become blurred.

It is also probably accurate to suggest that when relationships break down this is usually down (in part) to a realisation that significant others have little to do with a fantasy we each construct in our minds about whom they might be. Once the fantasy shatters, we are left with a true other and must either accept, forgive and move on together or reject the reality and separate.

  • Masks handed to individual’s by society manifested through language

It may be that all relationships and understandings of others work in this way to a greater or lesser extent. We pick up on signs that are imbued with meaning, reached collectively by our community (macro and micro) and then construct a variety of masks which society hands to individuals. Growing up with these, we must find a way to make ourselves fit or risk being accused of deviancy or madness. At times this might seem unreasonable, such as when ethnic groups or a particular gender are placed in restrictive positions. At other times, a distrust of certain deviancy seems obvious and absolute by society. In some instances, behaviours outside of the norm are less worrying to society (such as vegetarianism in Victorian times for instance). More impactful, attitudes towards same gender sexual relationships have changed over time (although there is still room for a great deal more acceptance and an extremely worrying backward stepping trend in some quarters). Additionally, there are some individuals who exist on the very fringes of normative behaviour who take no heed of collective morality and make up their own, believing they have every right to do so. Here, it is worth exploring, what role has society had in this construction? And does it deal with the consequences appropriately or effectively.

I did not set out to work with masks. Initially, I was simply incensed by the suggestion that we should identify others and also groups of people we might feel an affinity towards. This way of looking at the world has caused me a great deal of distress in my lifetime. Although we are wired to identify our group and our social status within the group, we should always try to override this imperative, rather than pander to it. I hate it when people make up their minds about me based on the sound of my voice, where I come from, or that fact I happen to be divorced for instance. And although I am human and cannot help but jump to conclusions about people at times, I think it behoves us to do our utmost to look beyond the masks society constructs, to look beyond the words that spring to mind when we come across people in person or online – words such as old, fat, black, white, student, Brexiteer/Remoaner (what a couple of absolutely awful words!) rich, poor, on benefits, disabled, child etc. These words all help us to situate someone but when we stop at the very first sign and don’t look beyond we are preventing ourselves from potential experience and richness. Often non-verbal, unspoken language tells us a great deal too and as a society we seem to have a complex relationship with that aspect of communication in terms of the lack of it online.

  • The internet adds a new layer to the way we construct others and ourselves

The survey, which started this exercise, was only accessed online. I deliberately used an online community because this modern somewhat haphazard but highly curated expression of self and interaction of other has added a whole new layer of constructed persona and communication skills to deal with. The way we communicate online is fraught with contradiction. We might interact minus any of the filters we have evolved over millions of years, and it is not unusual to see even highly accomplished and clever people reducing themselves to the level of 7 year olds arguing in the playground. Recently an article claimed trolls were likely to be sadistic and/or psychopaths (Sest, 2017). This is hardly surprising but in fact the trend goes right across the spectrum of social media users to greater or lesser extent. Either we’re all sadists and psychopaths or that kind of behaviour is filtering through society and sadists are unduly influencing us, as argued in Will Black’s book, Psychopathic Cultures. (2015) Additionally, we have no way of knowing who is telling the truth about themselves online and must trust or not that we are dealing with real people when we interact online. There are plenty of stories about frauds and scams. The Internet has been described as the wild west of today. We now communicate without the benefit of non-verbal language – emoticons are used in an attempt to circumvent that absence, however they are effective in a limited way.

  • Brecht – representation, reporting rather than emoting

Finally, I have found that emotive acting in photography is not effective, although I can imagine that documenting acting the activity would be interesting. I have essentially asked all the participants to report rather than act.



Earlier notes I made along the way, some of which may seem random …..

  • Oneiric images

Oneiric is dreamlike and allows us to access a different reality – despite referring to Wilson throughout the section, I had not realised I was looking at pre-language, pre-conscious realities

This reality is just as important as the external one according to Jung

These images aim to give a disrupt the illusions of a stable reality

  • Sensitivity and responsibility to subjects

One of the things about reality TV which I find utterly unacceptable is how children are exposed to the public perhaps due to society’s skewed relationship with celebrity and the way in which such icons are so highly valued. This work as been all about finding ways to tell stories and represent ideas and people without resorting to scooping out anyone’s entrails and putting them on show for others to view. The writer of the course does as much with success and sensitivity as he photographs the banal but telling objects in his subject’s lives in Relative Poverty. It was certainly what I attempted to when I photographed objects and fragments of space in Calais and Dunkirk.

  • Questioning the photographic image

I have been wondering what my work is really about. On one level I have resisted taking images of people that look would like so many other images of people we see. I wanted to explore different ways of doing things, ways that I had not explored before. And I have done that. On another level I am beginning to wonder if what is coming through work is a criticism of photography itself, of the terrible trust we people have in images, in portraits. Portraits convince us that we are looking at a whole real person, but we never can be, since it is only ever a moment, a fragment, a tiny slither of time and the same person can look entirely different from moment to moment, frame to frame. And a whole real person is argubaly an illusion anyway.

  • Self & Other 

“Self and other give birth to each-other” (Conley, 1984: 32) Language solidifies these distinctions, and so do photographs. The ‘hard question’, asked by philosophers and neuroscientists, “what is consciousness”, i.e. what makes a self seems fraught with all sort of arguments from various quarters. Philosophers and scientists tell us the self in an illusion and spiritualists and religious people tell us the self is a soul, a little bit of spiritual essence, which links us to a celestial being/world. Despite these positions seeming irreconcilable human beings form groups and Edward O Wilson likens human groups to super-brains, operating as a single entity. He also explores how Group A might work to protect itself and guard against Group B impinging on its space. However, individuals within each group are often faced with a conflict of interest, to serve the group or self the self. Wilson says, “Much of culture, including especially the content of the creative arts, has arisen from the inevitable clash of individual selection and group selection.” (2012, Kindle 17%)

Wilson’s words together with the Lacanian view that a cohesive self is an illusion perhaps leads to many feeling threatened in the world today as old structures are dismantled.

  • Masks

I notice the use of masks in the first shoot links to Greek Tragedy and perhaps therefore speaks of something deeply human and reaches back into very early ritual behaviour. If you’ve ever worked with masks you will know of the profound and magical transformation they can affect. Actors who might be shy and awkward suddenly find they can perform in a way that is unfathomable without the mask. In the chapter titled Masking the Subject in Family Frames, Mariane Hirsh describes Lacan’s mirror stage, when she relays, “the subject first apprehends him- or herself as a coherent image, a misrecognition which disguises the profound incongruities and disjunctions on which identity is necessarily based” The sense of a cohesive self which an infant begins to internalise is a welcome relief, says Hirsh as the mirror self is ideal (Hirsh, 2012:101) She then asserts that looking is a complicated process, and introduces the camera as metaphorical or mechanical looking. Again, she refers to Lacan. She quotes, “In the scopic field the gaze is outside. I am looked at, that is to say, I am a picture […] what determines me, at the most profound level, in the visible, is the gaze that is outside”. Having worked with masks, I can say based on experience that it is profoundly interesting how one you completely transform when wearing one.

When we look into an individual’s personal tragedy what are we doing and how does it serve anyone? Other that being voyeuristic? If we are going to feed off someone’s pain perhaps there must be some benefit to that person or society in order to make the trade-off viable. Or else we are simply wild animals vying for meat. Even in nature there is a trade off to the ecosystem when vultures peck the dead flesh from an animal. By doing so they clean up potential bacterial hotspots that could go on to infest rivers and streams. If we aren’t contributing to the ecosystem in some way then it behoves us to find a different way to express our interest and explore pain. See William Kentridge, See Roger Ballan, See Sontag On the Pain….

Abrams, L. (2017) “The Only Solace We Get Is From Each Other”: Ellen Mara De Wachter on How Collaborative Artists Show the Way to a Better Society, Artspace. Available at: [Accessed 8 July 2017]

Black, W. (2015). Psychopathic cultures and toxic empires. 1st ed. London: Frontline Noir.

Conley VA, 1984, Helene Cisoux, Writing the Feminine, Uni. Nebraska Press, Lincoln & London

Hirsch, M. (1997). Family frames. 1st ed. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, p.103.

Hudson, M. (2014). Hannah-Hoch-The-woman-that-art-history-forgot. The Telegraph. [online] Available at: art-history-forgot.html [Accessed 9 Feb. 2017].

Sest, N. (2017) Constructing the cyber-troll: Psychopathy, sadism, and empathy. Science Direct. Available at: [Accessed 8 Juley 2017]

The Social Conquest of Earth, Edward O. Wilson, Liveright Publishing Corporation, Publish April 9 2012, Kindle Edition, 17%





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:

Reflection: Representation of others

I am trying (not sure how successfully at this point) to explore ways of representing others. The last two days I have been feeling despondent which is par for the course with anyone working creatively so I’m trying not to take too much notice of my negative thoughts.

This afternoon I am going to photograph an artist who, using 6 descriptions of others which I compiled from the survey respondents, made ink sketches based on those descriptions.  I asked her to create her impressions of their inner worlds. This question I think is perhaps similar to the question Isabelle Mege asked, when she approached photographers and said, “J’aimerais m’apercevoir à travers votre regard” – I would like to see myself from your point of view. (Heyward, 2016) which is what I explored in UVC A4.  Instead I have asked the artist I’m visiting today, I would like to see your vision of other – it doesn’t sound nearly so powerful in English – and not quite so narcissistic perhaps (read my essay to see clinical references to narcissism as opposed to the culturally-modified use of the word). By doing this, I am potentially exploring several layers of other, all representational, which might be the only way we can ever conceive of other anyway. And it will always come back to the fact that any exploration of other I do, or anyone else does, is likely to say more about me or them than anyone else.

I came across a site on Twitter which is owned by two artists who are also a neuroscientist and a physicist – The site includes a video maker too, so their project work is truly collaborative. New Scientist Magazine opens an article saying: “THIS is what consciousness looks like – but these aren’t brain scans. Neuroscientist-turned-artist Greg Dunn created the art, aided by artist and physicist Brian Edwards, largely by hand, and using a special etching technique. “The piece was designed to be an unprecedented image of the brain,” says Dunn of his project, titled Self Reflected.” (Hamezelou, 2017) The work is very interesting but it made me feel that it was ok to keep going with what I’m doing, even though it’s taking a while, probably longer than I thought it might and is more tricky than simply going out and taking some images of anyone. Their work also refers to one of the underlying themes in my approach, which is about exploring what self and other might actually entail – an evolutionary  product of consciousness manifested to aid survival.

So now, although I’m not entirely without some remnants of despondency, I do at least feel it’s ok that I’m meandering hither and thither with this work as I try to find ways of working that satisfy my desire to explore different ways of doing things.

Refs: (paywall)