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)

Refection: Collaborative drawing & concerns about photography or the module or both

I am in two minds about posting this here for research behind the S&O1 exercises and assignment.

The course so far feels incredibly focused on UK-based class discourse and aimed at narrative document-photography, and I am deliberately trying to move away from that and head in a direction that works for me, taking my interests and prior experiences into account. That doesn’t mean I’m not interested in the peculiar, rigid class system that permeates everything in this part of the world, nor the history that comes with it. I am extremely interested and my work has looked at social injustice, human values, and the  cost-benefits ratio we as a group weigh-up; but I think I am trying to look at things that are perhaps more universal and all-encompassing than merely honing in on the very strange class system in the UK, maybe because I didn’t grow up here and/or because I am heavily influenced by things outside the realm of photography.

At times I’ve continued to wonder if I’m on the right module or even pathway. But that may well be a habit of mine that has nothing to do with education or photography, just the way I perceive things.

Anyway, back to the original point: at the weekend I went on a collaborative drawing workshop which lasted two hours in central London run by the Antiuniversity. The underlying objective of the organisation is, as stated on its website front page:


The workshop, as it says above, was free in the monetary sense and also freeing in the sense of what was expected, how it was approached, delivered and experienced. (By me at any rate – I can’t talk for anyone else). It was a breath of fresh air as I have been thinking about the limits and restrictions of academia, at the very least in terms of financial cost, but in relation to other aspects too. And the limits of photography. The experience really triggered some thoughts in me, especially as I think about the very privileged way in which higher education is structured and accessed.

Another wonderful aspect was simply getting involved in drawing. I don’t tend to draw, think I’m rubbish at it, and haven’t done so for years. However, I used to when I was a child but personal circumstances far beyond my control prevented me from doing A’ level art, where I might have forged ahead with any number of arty interested in my late teens. This weekend I was also surrounded by non-students and other students (some of whom are on OCA Drawing 1) who felt they weren’t great at drawing either. Yet, whatever one thinks about our efforts, the fact is we created something out of drawing and had fun doing so, plus we all learned things. I was happy to report this to my middle son who loves drawing but feels he’s rubbish at it too – hopefully I can now do my best to alleviate the effects of a conventional system which perhaps stipulates what is good and what is bad drawing in his eyes (and remind myself to do the same when thinking about photography in relation to whatever I imagine or fantasise about re. OCA expectations).

The reason I went on this workshop is because I would like to include collaborative drawing in my work at some point or at the very least use drawing as a tool to access unconscious ideas and connections, and to reveal surprising and relationships between (iconic) signifiers, as Robert Lepage does in his process. I had hoped to do so with A1 but I’ve honed in on a more manageable way of working for now which I will explain when I submit the assignment work. It does include some drawing but not in the way I initially imagined. However, I will certainly, after having gone on the workshop (and I will keep a look out for more examples of such sessions) like to make use of this approach in the future.

The other thing that was underlined by attending is that there are plenty of ways of exploring the structural systems which exist in our society without resorting to photographing ‘others’ in documentary images (and which may or may not end up looking like so many other photographers’ work). Exploring alternative ways to approach art or any aspect of life can be a political statement in its own right.

The reason I was hesitant about writing about this experience here, rather than on my Sketchbook part of the blog (a separate non-OCA record of work and process) is because the module feels so incredibly focused in one direction at the moment. Perhaps that will change as we move forward but it has made me a feel a little concerned. The words Self & Other are intrinsic to our western-centric psychology which began with Freud, Jung and Adler (and according to the Szondi forum website might include him due to his work with drives – The Szondi Test – 2012). Our language is teeming with words from psychology and it informs so much of how we relate to each other and see ourselves. That is what I am deeply interested in and it is what I signed up for. Although I do see that the UK class system is mired in some ancient (perhaps semiconscious) perception that a few in society have a god-given right to rule while the rest suck it up beneath those in power, I do not want to be limited to focusing in a very narrow way on that paradigm – I want instead to look at the way language perpetuates it, if indeed it does. And I do wonder to myself if I might find that photography isn’t what I thought it was, that one can’t create stories which explore these themes with a more universal approach. Then I think about some of the photographers who I have been looking at in the Tate, Performing for the Camera book and consider Yves Klein, Francesca Woodman, and the incredibly strange Boris Mikhailhov’s I Am Not I. And I think of my own tutor’s work which also seems fairly universally human and related to current technology-langauge development. i.e changing realities. And I know photography is capable of a more universal approach. And when I look at the photographers we are asked to take inspiration from I know this too – for instance, Sally Mann, Tina Barney (who will be an influence as I document a young ballet dancer – not in terms of the wealth Barney looks at but in other aspects) and Larry Sultan who is perhaps a photographer whose I work I love more than most.

To sum up – I’m in a state of uncertainty about the module and photography in general. And I very much enjoyed the drawing workshop and meeting people from the antiuniversity.


Tate, 2016. Performing for the Camera, Tate Enterprises, London