Exercise 5.1


Brief: Find a subject you have empathy with and take a sequence of shots to explore the distance between you. Evaluate by whats in the frame, not by your preconceived ideas.

I started by struggling to think of an idea for this but eventually came up with two:

  • books – and my relationship to them – I read constantly.
  • the coast – sea and the pebbles that I grew up with.

The weather was very dull today and also cold so I started by exploring the theme of books. Our house is full of them, all types and in all stages of preservation. I tried various image ideas and eventually enlisted the aid of my son – who is also a bibliophile – and as long as there are words on the page will read it!

My original images were of the bookshelves, a general bookshelf, some of my photobooks and a closer up image.However I felt these were quite ‘cold’ and didn’t say much about any relationship between me and my books.

I then just picked two books and started to play around with photographing these, both together and separately. I didn’t like the image on the right as it felt much too staged, but the left hand one is often how my books end up when I get distracted while reading, yes, I know it is bad for the spine!

I then thought to experiment with someone reading, so tried a further series of poses, both from close and further away. When I went away to check the focus of the initial images my son had acquired a ‘helper’, we changed the book, for the amusement factor (a little corny’) of taking a photograph of reading a book about reading a photograph.

The problem with this set of images is that the mental distance between me and the subject increased again  – so I went back for a further think and with much jumping up and down to refocus worked on some images of myself and a book. The image on the left is ‘marred’ by an accident of the sun, which had momentarily come out and reflected in the lens. The light on the book was, however, making it really easy to see the pictures, win or lose – picture versus practicality. I then moved place in the room and looked at close-up images and more distant ones.

The image I felt was most evocative at the end of it all was this one. I liked the way the blur from the flicking pages echoed my hair, which was exaggerated by the black and white conversion. A completely accidental mirroring, but it catches my relationship with books.



Having carried out and posted this exercise I came across a fascinating article in Photoworks 22 by Sara Knelman, where she talks about her collection of photographs of woman reading, ranging from early black and white images to more modern colour ones. She relates this to the work of Virginia Woolf in a ‘A Room of Ones Own’, and also comments on the considered male feeling the reading was an appropriate pastime for a woman, even though they might not understand what they were reading. She ends by pointing out ‘Part of the beauty and intrigue of these images, then, comes not from the things we can gain from visual cues but from wondering at the imperceptible imaginings of the readers’. (Knelman, 2017) If my family come across this image in the future will they wonder about my thoughts?


Knelman,S. (2017). Lady Readers. Photoworks, 22 pp.138-153



Summary week ending 27/10/17



  • Gigs images at Moody and Maas – moderately successful given that the light was very dim and all had to be handheld


  • Stephen Shore – The Nature of photography – found his way of splitting up looking at images into the physical level, the depictive level and the mental level a helpful way of conceptualizing what I am thinking about with an image
  • Photoworks 22 – Women – some of this I find too theoretical, too far away from my practice –
    • but really enjoyed Francesca Catastini – The Modern Spirit is Vivisective,
    • also the work by Diana Matar – Evidence – talking about the importance of absence.


  • Still about how to show sensory differences in visual terms.

St Andrews Photography Festival



I had the opportunity of visiting the St Andrew’s Photography Festival at the end of September. Unfortunately, I didn’t manage to attend any of the workshops, as I would have liked to go to either (or both) of the collodion workshops or the one on tintypes. I did, however, manage to walk around the outdoor displays and also visit some of the exhibitions. The exhibition was overlooked by a ‘small’ scale copy of the sculptures of the Falkirk kelpies, only small relative to the original kelpies, even these towered over me.

There were several displays of large posters of photographs shown on the railings both along the sea-front (The Scores) and also in front of one of the churches in town. These were interesting displays, partly for the images themselves, but also because of the reactions of the people in St. Andrews on the day I was there. I assume they were mostly tourists, there to look at the castle, cathedral ruins or play golf. Many were travelling in large groups with leaders discussing the sites. Very few were looking at the images displayed, rather leaning over them to look at the scenery. If I had thought more about this at the time it would have been interesting to have asked them if anyone was aware of the posters and what they thought of them (hindsight is a wonderful thing).

The poster exhibition that caught my eye was ‘In This Place’ by Margaret Mitchell, which has now been widely exhibited and won several awards including for the RPS and Lensculture. The work looks at images of her family set against the background of housing estate life in parts of Stirling that are waiting for regeneration.

These images of urban family life in a desolate area that might have been anywhere in Europe contrasted strongly with both some of the other, more traditionally beautiful images on show and the stunning coastal backdrop.


A further series of posters were of the various exhibitions that have been put on by Stills Gallery in Edinburgh over the last 40 Years. It is their 40th Anniversary this year. This showed the wide range of types of exhibitions that have been around in Scotland, but also possibly the general Scottish lack of reverence for the more cultural aspects of life, along with the need for fast food.

There were also many indoor exhibitions, not all of which I managed to see. Two that stood out for me were Heidi Blanksma and Hannah Laycock. Heidi won the photography competition with the image ‘Feel the Rain’, described as having a ‘Julia Margaret Cameron sort of feel‘ (Standrewsphotograpghyfestival.com, 2017).

Hannah Laycock produced a fascinating piece of work ‘Awakenings’ in which she describes photographically her feelings about her own struggle with MS. I found this especially interesting as it links into my own project on showing the feelings of people with autism in images. This also reminds me of some of the images in ‘The Final Project‘ by Jo Spence, although her images were overlaid using actual transparencies rather that what I presume is Photoshop here.  I assume the reference is deliberate – although the idea of disappearing and melding into nature is clearly evocative of losing yourself physically.

© Hannah Laycock , image courtesy of Hannah Laycock

Overall the festival (what I managed to see of it) was interesting with a wide range of photographic styles on show, and several potentially valuable workshops , which I will try to attend next year if available. I am not sure about the use of the outdoor presentations – I assume the idea is to bring photography and the festival to the attention of the multiplicity of people who visit St Andrews in the summer – but I wonder how successful that was, although if it only engaged the minds of a few who had never thought of photography as an art form, rather than a quick family snapshot or something for social media, it will have been a useful exercise.


Hannah Laycock. (2017). Awakenings – Hannah Laycock. [online] Available at: https://hannahlaycock.com/awakenings/ [Accessed 27 Oct. 2017].

Margaret Mitchell Photography. (2017). In This Place – Margaret Mitchell Photography. [online] Available at: http://margaretmitchell.co.uk/projects/in-this-place/ [Accessed 27 Oct. 2017].

Photographer in Aberdeenshire | Stonehaven | Blankcanvas Photography. (2017). Photographer in Aberdeenshire | Stonehaven | Blankcanvas Photography. [online] Available at: https://www.blankcanvasphotography.co.uk/about-contact [Accessed 27 Oct. 2017].

Spence, J. and Lee, L. (2013). Jo Spence: The Final Project. London: Ridinghouse.

Standrewsphotographyfestival.com. (2017). St Andrews Photography Festival. [online] Available at: http://standrewsphotographyfestival.com/ [Accessed 27 Oct. 2017].

Selfie Research 1.


A very rapid search of Google Scholar shows a plethora of articles about selfies over the last 10 years. They vary widely in approach and thoughts, from articles that are mainly about the presumed patho-psychology of the selfie taker to those that take a diametrically opposite stance, describing it as a healthy or understandable occupation. There is even at least one higher education level course exploring the whole concept, linked with various exercises, a Flickr page and much related discussion. (Selfieresearchers.com,2014)

One study by Sung of Korean young people found that there were four main reasons for posting selfies on social media ‘attention seeking, communication, archiving, and entertainment. Of particular interest to the psychological mechanism of selfies is the motivation of “attention seeking.” ……. Among the various means of publicly posting self-information on SNSs, such as personal profiles, status updates, and wall posts, selfies in particular emphasize key features of one’s self by displaying optimized, desirable self-image with the intention of seeking admiration from others. Given that selfies showcase one’s interests and values, positive reactions and feedback received from social connections on SNSs (e.g., “likes” or “shares”) may act as testaments to the close relationships and social validation central to one’s self-worth, that is, self-affirmation’ and also that there was a significant amount of narcissistic behaviour and that ‘Narcissists tend to post their selfies more frequently and show greater intention to post than their counterparts. Additionally, higher levels of narcissism were associated with stronger attention-seeking motivation in terms of selfie behaviour.’ (Sung et al., 2016). This study is clearly limited as it concentrates on one group of people without any ethnic diversity but does demonstrate the trend of academic research.

A further study by Dhir looked at age and gender so the most prolific selfie posters are adolescents, and the least likely are older adults. (Dhir et al., 2016) and yet another study by Baiocco showed differences in gender, with females and non-heterosexual people more likely to post than heterosexual males. (Baiocco et al.,2017).

These studies, while academically interesting, do not explain the current prevalence of selfie taking and posting. Most of the studies seem to imply a negative correlation between selfie posting and positive personality traits and suggest that it is the need for self-validation in the current era that explains it. This seems a somewhat  unbalanced approach given that it is such a common part of youth and young adult culture, and it seems unlikely that all people in these age groups are strongly narcissistic!

In an interesting (and lengthy) study by Diefenbach and Christoforakos they point out that in spite of the preponderance of selfies on social media there is an overall critical attitude towards them, leading to a paradox – why, if no-one likes selfies are so many taken? Is it a ‘social obligation’ or do people actually enjoy it but not admit this? Are the present showy selfie poses mainly ironical, and does this drive the posting of ever more narcissistic poses? (Diefenbach and Christforakos, 2017).


Baiocco, R., Chirumbolo, A., Bianchi, D., Ioverno, S., Morelli, M. and Nappa, M. (2017). How HEXACO Personality Traits Predict Different Selfie Posting Behaviours Among Adolescents and Young Adults. Frontiers inPsychology, 7.

Dhir, A., Pallesen, S., Torsheim, T. and Andreassen, C. (2016). Do age and gender differences exist in selfie-related behaviours?. Computers in Human Behavior, [online] 63, pp.549-555. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.chb.2016.05.053 [Accessed 3 Sep. 2017].

Diefenbach, S. and Christoforakos, L. (2017). The Selfie Paradox: Nobody Seems to Like Them Yet Everyone Has Reasons to Take Them. An Exploration of Psychological Functions of Selfies in Self-Presentation. Frontiers in Psychology, [online] 08. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2017.00007 [Accessed 24 Oct. 2017].

Selfieresearchers.com. (2014). Introduction and Guidelines. [online] Available at: http://www.selfieresearchers.com/introduction-and-guidelines/ [Accessed 3 Sep. 2017].

Sung, Y., Lee, J., Kim, E. and Choi, S. (2016). Why we post selfies: Understanding motivations for posting pictures of oneself. Personality and Individual Differences, [online] 97, pp.260-265. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.paid.2016.03.032 [Accessed 3 Sep. 2017].


Selfie Images – Playing


This thread will be for the images that I have ‘played’ with. An experimental thread using images taken with my phone and altered using apps. I suspect many will be less than flattering!  But, to some extent, that is the point.

First set – altered via Snapseed, with some additional wording. As expected – not aiming for the ‘beautiful’ look. These images give no idea of what I was doing  or where I was. The expressions are blank – and look tired. Clearly need to work on my gaze and the ability to smile while on camera.


Image made with Photo Lab, an app ‘designed’ for alteration of selfies, on a camera or tablet – supposed to give fun and beautiful images. Not sure this is am improvement either. Clearly need to work on making myself look younger – not ancient!untitled-13


This time I’ve made the images with Procam 5. Is 2 better than 1, or maybe 2 x 1/2 is better? These are fun to play with – but haven’t found a ‘serious’ use yet.

and going very light



Playing with photoshop! Additional layer via fractalis, then distorted, then added in further layer of smart blur – leaving out into space – am I in a time warp?Selfie Jan


Selfies – Starting Point


I have been thinking more about the concept of selfies. Oddly enough, it is not a photographic genre I have experimented with. I am not sure why. Is it because:

  1. I am very body conscious and don’t like anyone taking photographs of me
  2. I am too old, and haven’t ‘got the hang of’ the social media explosion
  3. Too lazy/too busy with other things
  4. Not the right (or rather wrong) personality type

Any or all of the above probably apply. So I decided that it would be interesting to take a two-pronged approach to investigating them further.

  1. Research about the academic theories of the use/abuse of selfies
  2. Personal experimentation with the genre

This will be a long term project that I plan to revisit intermittently over the next year or more. It doesn’t fit directly into my studies for EYV, so will sit alongside it, although some of the research and practice may overlap.

I have set up 2 threads for this, one on research and one  for images. I started taking the images in August, but have decided to concentrate on taking an image together with a photo of where I took the image on a monthly basis, for ease of remembering I have chosen the 1st of the month, around about lunchtime. I have also been playing with altering the images – initially using Snapseed on my phone, but also plan to play with them using other phone software, so will see where that leads.