A3: Notes 2


 See the article about the computer metaphor, see the riposte, see the paragraph in the Psychopath book that discusses models, see language, see information


 Meanings – filter out what we deem to be damaging and no good, an imposition on purity; or a digital layer that alters the look of something

Filter out noise, filter out views we don’t agree with, filter out dissent, and filter out questions

Children are bought up to filter out undesirable behaviour e.g. by being told well-done when they behave according to social expectations, and perhaps feel the less desirable parts of themselves are unlovable, which make sit hard for them to grow up accepting those aspects (Alfie Kohn, behaviourism)

Culture acts as a filter affecting how we perceive reality. This way of understanding is often referred to as a lens which is either biological and therefore of the body or it is plastic/glass and hard/soft. A lense refers to the way light enters. A lens is impervious and a material filter isn’t – it lets things in and potentially can let more or less in, while a digital filter is adjustable. Religion, political persuasion, family background, history, education – or lack of, class, relative wealth, habit, and tradition, Weltanschauung, all help to construct filters through which we experience life.

Our neurological processes act as the most immediate filter, bring all the things we experience through our various senses together into a harmonious and meaningful whole, allowing us to experience it – we have evolved to be able to do this – see video about external phenomena, i.e. sound and action perceived as happening at the same time

Our reality filter affects the way we experience time

Things can go wrong in our brains, and we can become dissociated from accepted reality in some ways, see Oliver Sacks, The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat

Advertisers and spectacle makers create a filter through which we understand morality, need, dreams, and ambition. In Lacanian, terms this is brought about through the imaginary and symbolic realms

Again – Lacan – we adapt to see ourselves as whole, as an entity, as a separate being and this is a reality ‘filter’ – mirror stage for instance

RAW file – merely information but the information needs to be deciphered and interpreted, and it cannot be except through the filter that makes us who we are.

Image Screen

See Lacan  – http://csmt.uchicago.edu/glossary2004/screen2.htm

“However, to see without the image-screen would, in Foster’s estimation, constitute being “touched by the real” and result in psychic death.  Foster sees the use of abjection in contemporary art practice as an attempt to “puncture” the screen, to view the sublime horror of the object-gaze (see beautiful, sublime).  Essentially, to look upon the impossible Real, which seems to be a paradoxical project. [x]



Cindy Sherman

As I have been working on these and worrying about whether or not to submit them, it was fortuitous to come across Cindy Sherman’s very similar work.



Now I am a bit of a loss about how to proceed… they are obviously very similar and I need to find a way to make these my own. Perhaps video is the way forward – putting them together not as stills but as moving image with a voice over. BUT – adding the horrific voice to the horrific pictures is too much so either they must be relatively benign pictures with warped voice or the other way around.  Here is a draft video but I will need to reshoot them and try to make them work in landscape I think if possible. The music was from the App. (For now this is merely an example of alternative to stills). The other thing I keep thinking about is Rist’s work which also reveals the real but she does it in a less horrific, potentially far more beautiful/fun way and maybe that’s the way I prefer to go….

Whichever, I do plan to do this Assignment very soon so as to avoid thinking too much more, probably before completing two more exercises I need to do, which I will do afterward. I have to say the first three images make me feel very sick indeed…they are so awful. But as stated in the Guardian article above, “Sherman’s Instagram posts accomplish something not seen in recent years – they hold up a dark mirror to our era of self-obsession” (Becker, 2017)

Just a little beware….


Images (c)SJField 2017


A1 Preparatory supporting documents and

The following are documents that I sent people I was working with to describe the process I hoped to explore with them

Two months ago I created a survey which can be found here. I describe my rationale for doing so here: https://ocasjf.wordpress.com/2017/05/13/reflection-rationale-for-approach-to-exercise-1-and-the-use-of-a-survey-to-identify-others-the-results-of-which-i-may-use-throughout-the-first-section/

I was not sure if I would use the results for the exercises or the assignment or both. In the end they influenced all the work but it is only obviously visible in the assignment work.

I received 86 replies to the survey. I chose 6 to work with. I condensed their words into short descriptions of people. See below.

I wanted to work with artists, performers, and anyone whose work was related to representing others. I devised two separate release forms. In the end I used the artist’s one for all the performers and contributors to the assignment. I used a usual model release for the exercises as people were less involved. I sent the documents below to artists.

  1. Characters for performersFor some artists I reduced each chapter to a single sign
  2. each-character-is-reduced-to-a-single-symbol
  3. Characters for artists
  4. Release and Agreement Form for Collaborating Artists for S&O1

The final assignment images are photographs of artists from different disciplines who worked with me to a greater or lesser extent on creating work that represented the descriptions I derived from the 6 surveys.

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: http://www.artspace.com/magazine/interviews_features/qa/ellen-mara-de-watcher-on-collaboration-54876 [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: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/art/10545071/Hannah-Hoch-The-woman-that- art-history-forgot.html [Accessed 9 Feb. 2017].

Sest, N. (2017) Constructing the cyber-troll: Psychopathy, sadism, and empathy. Science Direct. Available at: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0191886917304270 [Accessed 8 Juley 2017]

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





Contact Sheet: Assignment S&OA1

In preparation for tomorrow evening’s Hangout with students from the UVC group I am posting this contact sheet of work I have made so far for this assignment.

There is password for this contact sheet and OCA students/tutors should use the same one as before (please message me if you can’t remember).


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. Click here for a much longer blog about why I feel this way.

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 a 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 information.

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