Stills Exhibition April 2017

The Collection Series:

Works from a private photography collection


Alan Dimmick’s studio archive, 1977-2017

The exhibition at the Stills Gallery consists of two contrasting halves.

Alan Dimmicks’ images from his studio archive consists of walls of images, 450 photographs of Glasgow life, taken over the last 40 years. People, places, portraits. The backs of people, birds on the shore, close details and broader sweeps. Some appear threatening, some banal, others amusing or sad.

Moira Jeffries says, in an essay that accompanies the exhibition, ‘an accretion of information…. four decades of social history……an accumulation and contingency……. the stories that haven’t been told, the histories that haven’t yet crystallised.’ (Jeffrey, 2017).

Dimmick said ‘It’s really always been people that have interested me most ‘(Albert Drive,2013) and ‘always have your camera with you [obviously] but also realise that images of quite ordinary things can be important in years to come, and keep your negatives neatly filed’ (Radcliffe,2012)

The overwhelming impression is of a snapshot of life, in all the grubby and fascinating details.

 Photographs taken and added with permission of the Stills Gallery, Edinburgh.

The second half of the exhibition is a series of images from the private collection of Scottish photographer Davis Eustace which includes a wide range of photographs from the whole of the 20th century. Images that particularly caught my attention were the Annie Leibovitz portrait of Merce Cunningham, dancer and choreographer, from 1994, a very personal and intense image that contrasted with the Chris Blott image, ‘Farmer’ also from 1994, showing a man looking away to the distance which reminded me of August Sanders portraits of ‘types’ from the People of the 20th century series.

My attention was also caught by three Images of beautiful females by Fabrizio Gianni who said ‘I’ve never been a photographer. I was a fashion photographer. They’re two different things’ (Jamieson, 2015). I considered these in the light of the recent article by Jansen in the British Journal of Photography discussing the different ways of seeing and image making between women taking pictures of women from men’s images of women ‘In the patriarchy in which we live, photography is an expression of power. The photographic act is often viewed as an assertion of masculine dominance’ (Jansen, 2017). Although I agree with Jansen’s premise (and look forward to reading the whole book – Girl on Girl) I found these images wistful and playful rather than orientated for the masculine eye.

Salt Pan by Edward Burtynsky was one of the few colour prints on show. It shows an  aerial view of a land that has been affected and changed by industry, the only sudden flash of colour is manmade, the rest grey, dead, alien. Taken in Gujarat, India in 2016 the series is an indictment on man’s treatment of our world. He says ‘(we) come from nature…. There is an importance to (having) a certain reverence for what nature is because we are connected to it…. If we destroy nature, we destroy ourselves’ (, 2017). Cotton, when describing Burtynsky’s work, says ‘Deadpan photography often acts in this fact-stating mode: the personal politics of the photographers come into play in their selection of subject matter and their anticipation of the viewer’s analysis of it, not in any explicit political statement through text or photographic style.’ (Cotton, 2015). The subtle colouring and detail drew me in and I found myself searching out the remaining images of the series.

Salt Pan #4 Little Rann of Kutch, Gujarat, India, 2016.

 Edward Burtynsky, courtesy of Flowers Gallery, London

Overall an interesting pairing, contrasting one man’s style and thought processes of image making with carefully chosen images from a single collector. The two men have contrasting styles of photography, Eustace is renowned for portraits of the stars, but also landscape and fashion while Dimmick concentrates on an area, Glasgow, and the city life in all its facets.

Well worth seeing.


ALBERT DRIVE. (2013). Alan Dimmick. [online] Available at: [Accessed 11 Apr. 2017].

Cotton, C. (2015). The photograph as contemporary art. ed. London: Thames & Hudson, pp.86-88. (2017). EDWARD BURTYNSKY. [online] Available at: [Accessed 11 Apr. 2017].

Jamieson, T. (2015). Fabrizio Gianni: From assisting Sergio Leone to high fashion photography, via Falkirk. [online] HeraldScotland. Available at: [Accessed 10 Apr. 2017].

Jansen, C. (2017). I’ll Be Your Mirror. British Journal of Photography, (May), pp.42 – 55.

Jeffrey, M. (2017). Fixing:The Archive of Alan Jeffrey.

Radcliffe, A. (2012). Photographer Alan Dimmick – interview. [online] The List. Available at: [Accessed 10 Apr. 2017].

Initial Plan – April 2017

  1. Work my way though course handbook, looking at each exercise and expanding as required. Importance high as I want to complete the course in a timely fashion.
  2. Personal projects – present ideas
    1. People in the park: looking at people as they walk around, interacting with others, their dogs, phones etc.
      1. Initially looking at more distant shots, maybe using tele lens
      2. Close-ups!
    2. Tree ‘Art’: following up on my interest in nature looking at and contrasting the natural bark /growth patterns of trees with the, often childish or rude, graffiti carved into them.
    3. Intimacy: close-up work
      1. Contrast people, or rather small images of them with detail of possibly buildings, or? plants
      2. People interacting with each other
    4. Looking at photographers work in detail – present possibilities but this list could go on forever.
      1. Dayanita Singh
      2. John MacLean
      3. Keith Arnatt
      4. Walker Evans
      5. Diane Arbus
    5. Reading – again the list could go on forever
      1. Photography as contemporary art – Charlotte Cotton
      2. The Genius of Photography – Gary Badger
      3. Letting go of the Camera – Brooke Jensen
    6. Attend as many exhibitions, both of photography and general art as possible.

This list is much too ambitious, but it gives me a starting point.

To be reviewed monthly to keep a check on progress.

Reflections After Assignment 1

Assignment 1 in and feedback received, very fair comments. I was thinking more about the content rather than the technical side of the images. Need to think better about presentation so that images are seen in the order I envision them, not the order the computer sees (alphabetical).

I have had technical problems with my printer, now I hope sorted, mainly due to not using it for some while. I am also using a new (to me) software program as I have made the step of moving from Elements and Lightroom to Adobe Creative Suite. It’s taking me some concentration to get my head around photoshop, although in practice I am mainly using Lightroom.

I am finding that I risk flitting from one project plan to another, too many possible ideas, and not enough time. I need to make a list of the ideas, then hone them down so that I actually get something workable and worthwhile. I am also getting endlessly distracted by the work of others and again jumping from looking at one set of images to another without really concentrating on one or thinking about how they work and what I can learn from them. I also have far too large a pile a reading to attempt, again I need to slow down and read one book at a time, making annotations as I go so that I can find the source of my ideas or thoughts to review them as required.

I need a plan! One that I can refer to and remind myself where I am and what I want/ need to concentrate on.

Project 2: Exercise 1.2 – Point

This exercise involves looking at design via analysing the placement and use of single points within the frame.

Part 1: Take 2-3 images with a single point and evaluate the effect of that point.

 I started this exercise by simply taking a series of images where there was a point object in the picture. At this stage I was not looking to take particularly interesting images, but concentrating on some where the rest of the image was fairly bland so that the relationship of the point within the frame was obvious. In these images the point often became the most important part of the picture. I found that I have tended to take images where the point was in the lower half of the frame, possibly because I was framing the image about the point, not having it ‘accidentally appear. In each case I find my eye is drawn first to the point and then scans the rest of the image. Is this because I know what I am looking for, or is it universal?

Out of interest I then converted one image to monochrome to see if that altered the impact of the ‘point’. If anything, it made it even more compelling to the eye. The can remains the focus here, but a second ‘point’ object (the drain) in the upper half now also becomes important with the eye travelling along the kerbstones between the two points.


Part 2: Take further pictures that include a point. Look for anywhere the point is not in relation to the frame. Look at how your eye moves around the image.

For this part of the exercise I looked though my recent pictures for ones that had a clear ‘point’ somewhere in the frame, and also went out today to deliberately look for others to expand on the theme.

In all of these images the ‘point’ object becomes an important part of the picture, leading the eye around it, or actually explaining the meaning. In all but one images the point is near the edge and either acts as a starting point for your eyes journey (the football and the waterfall), or its termination (the yellow flower and the bin). the image with the point in the centre is, in contrast, very static.

I also tried some of these images in monochrome. The ‘point’ took a very different role when deprived of the additional impact of a sudden burst of colour.


Print at draft quality showing how the eye moves around the page and the difference of effect in monochrome and colour.

Overall I found this a very interesting exercise. I am not convinced I produced any startling pictures (!), but it has made me think more about composition and the role of a point object. This may alter my instant  attempts to avoid detritus in pictures and possibly try to actually use it instead.

Project 1: Exercise 1.1

Take 3 exposures from the same place without moving or changing the settings on the camera. Then look closely to examine for any differences and look closely at the histogram.

I deliberately chose a shaded spot in the garden when there was a cloudy sky and minimal wind to minimise external variations. The camera was set to program and the aperture, shutter speed and ISO remained constant (1/100 sec, f/4.7, ISO320). Capture time 03/04/17 at 12:11:13, 12:11:14 and12:11:16.

On visual inspection, even when enlarged to 3:1 I could not see any difference between the images, however on looking closely at the histograms there was a slight shift.

  • The luminosity increased slightly over the 3 images, the median shifting from 125 to 126 to128
  • The colours shifted from a marginal preponderance of blue to a slight increase in red.

The changes are so small that they needed very close examination of the histogram to be visible, but are present.

Image 1Image 2Image 3

Square Mile – Initial Analysis

The brief is to use the concept Y Filter Sgwar to look at your surroundings in a new way, producing a set of six to twelve photographs that illustrate this.

I use a Panasonic micro two-thirds camera and for this project I fitted a fixed 45mm focal length lens which equates to a 90mm standard lens. I set the camera to P except for a few images of moving water.

My main interests in photography are landscape, nature and the environment. I rarely take pictures of people other than the mandatory ‘snapshots’ of family events and friends. I had thought of trying to break this mental barrier for this project and considered using the theme of ‘Taking a Dog for a Walk’ but I struggled with the idea of asking strangers to allow me to photograph them, although I could have concentrated on more distance images, or their backs. On reading about Arnatt and his series on ‘Walking a Dog’ I thought that this could, in this context, be considered very derivative.

I gave myself a limit of two weeks photography time and took the camera with me day. This left me with multiple images, many were duplicates, which use of a digital camera has encouraged, unlike in analogue photography when I would have been very aware of the costs and much more considered in my approach.

The images were divisible into several possible themes, ranging from detailed architectural studies, via the environmental impact of rubbish to landscape and nature. The weather was extremely variable, on one day ranging from brilliant sunshine, though grey clouds, a blizzard and back to sunshine. This lead to my final theme – ‘A Day in the Park’.


‘Blossom’ and ‘Path in the Woods’ are very typical pictures of spring. Ideally the sky would have been blue, and I did consider going back on a better day to retake ‘Blossom’. ‘Crocus’, is the image I am happiest about of this section. I enjoy taking details of nature and I feel the colours typify the concept of spring.


These images were taken at the height of the storm while trying to shelter and keep a dry camera. I was trying to show the intensity of the storm and feel I have only been partially successful although ‘Dog’ does show the atmosphere and misery well. The final image is almost a whiteout and I struggled to get the exposure correct while still showing the intensity of the storm.


This was the most difficult selection to make as I could have simply shown the snow, but it seemed important to also show the flooded burn and the longer-term effect of the intense deluge of snow and its equally sudden melting.

Overall I am content with this set of images, although I am aware that some could have been improved technically. I deliberately avoided altering the images at the post-production stage so this shows an ‘where I am now’ view.


A Square Mile – A Walk in the Park

The brief is to use the concept Y Filter Sgwar (The Square Mile) which is the connection with your childhood home to look at your surroundings in a new way, producing a set of six to twelve photographs that illustrate this.

I started in a very literal manner by identifying the square mile around my home. I shifted the area slightly to the south as I rarely go more than two streets to the north. This area includes:

  • Some housing, mostly late nineteenth and early twentieth century with some social housing built in the sixties
  • A large and well used public park with a burn running though it
  • Farmland, mainly arable
  • The local shopping zone
  • A historic area with an abbey

This is an area I have lived in for 25 years and must have taken thousands of photographs of and I was very aware that I risked simply reproducing these or giving a tourist guide to the best spots.

I walk this area every day with my dog, so I decided to change my standard camera zoom lens to one with a fixed focal length, carry it with me every day and photograph anything that caught my eye. As I did this I realised that there were several possible themes developing:

  • Water and its impact on the area – this was especially noticeable as it was a very wet time, with the weather varying from brilliant sunshine, though heavy rain to blizzard conditions
  • Close-up nature studies
  • Architectural details
  • The environmental impact of man and the debris left behind
  • The time of year – balanced between winter and spring

I eventually decided to use the last theme as, one day when out walking, we started in brilliant sunshine, then nearly got blown off our feet in a blizzard, which then stopped to leave a mix of sun and snow on the spring flowers. This was a day with extreme weather changes, even for Scotland, but I felt it showed the area in all its moods.

I use a Panasonic micro two thirds camera and for this project I fitted a fixed 45mm focal length lens which equates to a 90mm standard lens. I set the camera to P except for a few images of moving water when I changed to a slow shutter speed.


Blossom: 1/500 sec, f4.5, ISO 200
Path in the Woods
Path in the Woods: 1/250 sec, f/3.5, ISO 200
Crocus: 1/100sec, f/2.8, ISO 250


Abbey: 1/250 sec, f/3.2, ISO 200
Dog: 1/320 sec, f/3.5, ISO 200
Whiteout: 1/640 sec, f/5.0, ISO 250


Crocus 2
Crocus 2: 1/500 sec, f/4.5, ISO 200
Seats: 1/640 sec, f/5.0, ISO 200
Flood: 1/100 sec, f/2.6, ISO 320

Square Mile – Reading and Research

On examining the photographers and images suggested for researching the Square Mile project I noted that although all of them show some linking in their thoughts to an area that is clearly important to them the actual thought processes and end results are very different. They can be broadly divided into a group that use photographs of people to show the identity of the place, and a group where the focus is on the place itself.

Barney, Dearden and Knorr focus on using people to give identity to the area of interest. Tina Barney (, 2006) took images of her family and friends in New York. These images show details of family life and the tension that can occur, thus exploring the place though the people that inhabit it and whom she knows well. Cotton says ‘there is a compelling blend of a photographically distant perspective with a subject that is intimately known’ (Cotton,2015).

Venetia Dearden’s series ‘Somerset Stories, Fivepenny Dreams’ is set in the area where she grew up. She says ‘My passion and curiosity for Somerset has been fuelled by my long-term connection with this area where I spent my childhood. I am compelled to return again and again to explore my relationship with the landscape and the people living here……… I witness a sense of belonging and identity within these rich bonds of family and community’ (Dearden, 2014). Dearden looks at the lives and activities of the families’ resident in Somerset at present to explore a place she knew well in the past.

Karen Knorr (, 2014) uses portraits to show the ideas that were prevalent in a very wealthy area of London during the 1970’s.

Horn, Hunter, Taylor and Barnard have focused on the place itself to explain their sense of connection with an area. Romi Horn (, 2009) has published a series called ‘To Place’ where she looks at the identity of a specific place, Iceland, in detail though photographs, drawings and text. Interestingly, this is far from where she grew up in New York, however, has become an area that she has studied intensively.

Tom Hunter’s ‘Living in Hell and Other Stories’ (, 2017) investigates the history of his local area in East London, re-staging stories which paint an unsettling picture of the area.

Jodie Taylor (Taylor, 2013) for her OCA project focused on the area she lived in as a child, and the memories of that place which have been revived by returning there as an adult.

Gawain Barnard investigates the wildfire burning in Wales which occurs yearly in ‘Boredom for Burning’. He focuses on small details of the remains after the fires, bringing back memories of his youth. He says ‘The landscape of youth is laden with memories………our place of youth, our ‘home’ and the memories created during this period, for better or worse can create an embedded sense of place and can go some way in self-defining our later life attitude.’  (Barnard, 2013).

Keith Arnatt has utilised ideas from both these of groups with two series that are linked to his local area. The series ‘Walking a Dog’ (Tate, 2010b) is a collection of 40 out of 200 photos taken in his local area of people and their dogs in a standard pose taken in 1976 -1979.  The number of images form a work that makes a comment on society and people and points up the oft remarked similarities between dogs and their owners. He later showed a further series based in his local area ‘Pictures from a Rubbish Tip’ (Tate, 2010 a) 1988–9. This shows close-ups of rubbish from a local tip. Although these are factual images the way they are taken gives the series a feeling of an abstract composition.

John MacLean has taken a fascinating twist on this approach in photographing the hometowns of artists and photographers that he is inspired by, looking for what has, in turn, inspired their work. He says ‘It’s about escaping the hometown to spending all our time exploring, only to find ourselves back there once again’ (Pantell, 2017).

References: (2006). so the story goes. [online] Available at: [Accessed 25 Mar. 2017].
Barnard, G. (2013). Boredom to Burn. [online] Available at: [Accessed 25 Mar. 2017].

Cotton, C. (2015). The photograph as contemporary art. London: Thames & Hudson.
Dearden, V. (2014). Welcome to Venetia Dearden’s Website – Somerset Stories Fivepenny Dreams. [online] Available at: [Accessed 25 Mar. 2017]. (2014). Belgravia | Karen Knorr. [online] Available at: [Accessed 25 Mar. 2017].
Pantell, C. (2017). Hometowns. British Journal of Photography, (7857), pp.60-74. (2017). Tom Hunter Porfolio at Purdyhicks Gallery. [online] Available at: [Accessed 25 Mar. 2017].
Tate. (2010). Pictures from a Rubbish Tip, Keith Arnatt 1988 -9 | Tate. [online] Available at: [Accessed 25 Mar. 2017].
Tate. (2010). Walking the Dog, Keith Arnatt 1976 -9 | Tate. [online] Available at: [Accessed 25 Mar. 2017]. (2009). Roni Horn aka Roni Horn: explore the exhibition, room guide, room 10. [online] Available at: [Accessed 25 Mar. 2017].
Taylor, J. (2013). Photography and Nostalgia – WeAreOCA. [online] WeAreOCA. Available at: [Accessed 25 Mar. 2017].

A New Start

This is the post excerpt.

Life has changed recently. I have retired. At least partially so. This gives me time so I have decided to use it in a productive manner by learning a new skill set (to use a buzz phrase from my previous life).

Studying an arts subject is a very different experience from my previous learning which is all science based, other than one OCA course which I struggled to completely in a timely manner due to significant illness. I have had a long stranding interest in the practical aspects of photography, and also in looking at photographic exhibitions, however have never had any formal learning in how to analyse any arts subject.
I was brought up being very aware of photography on a daily basis as my step-father was a professional photographer, concentrating on landscapes and architecture. He used medium format cameras and was meticulous about recording all the details, well before the days of digital photography and exif data. We would spend hours waiting for the perfect light, a glimpse of sun, and, most importantly, no intrusive people unless they gave a needed scale.
The move from film to digital was an interesting change, with the possibility of instant reviews, histograms and altering exposure post facto – but I have found that it makes me lazy, as other than the in review time, there is no cost to taking vast numbers of similar, often practically identical, shots. A much more considered approach is required, more thinking and less pressing of the button.
Recent partial retirement should give me more time, however I remain concerned about my ability to be analytical about the photography of both myself and others. I am very much at the stage of ‘I know what I like – but don’t know why’, and certainly not at the stage of understanding what might appeal to others in anything other than a short term fashion. I hope that reading , looking and thinking will, over time, address this.