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‘ (, 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: [Accessed 27 Oct. 2017].

Margaret Mitchell Photography. (2017). In This Place – Margaret Mitchell Photography. [online] Available at: [Accessed 27 Oct. 2017].

Photographer in Aberdeenshire | Stonehaven | Blankcanvas Photography. (2017). Photographer in Aberdeenshire | Stonehaven | Blankcanvas Photography. [online] Available at: [Accessed 27 Oct. 2017].

Spence, J. and Lee, L. (2013). Jo Spence: The Final Project. London: Ridinghouse. (2017). St Andrews Photography Festival. [online] Available at: [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. (,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: [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: [Accessed 24 Oct. 2017]. (2014). Introduction and Guidelines. [online] Available at: [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: [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.

Outside – inside, is it a fantasy? (Assignment 4)


The Brief: Take one of the exercises on daylight, artificial light or studio light and use it to create a set of between 6 – 10 images with a linking theme.

For this assignment I chose to use artificial light as this is not a field I have explored before and I felt it would be a good test of development of skills.  I thought about several possibilities of exploring this.

  1. Street scenes at night:

    This gave me the options of more general shots, such as the lit town hall, or more specific ones like the exterior of the local pub.

  2. Gigs:

    This definitely was a possibility, as the light is very interesting, all of the above images are as shot on the same night without a change in the white balance.

  3. Car lights at night (road shots with extended times).
  4. Fireworks (wrong time of year).

However, I was walking home one evening and this was the view though my window.

House window.

I found this an interesting view and decided to explore the concept of looking through the window.


a. When I started thinking about the concept of lit windows I remembered a painting I had seen at the Glasgow Gallery of Modern Art many years ago. Avril Paton is a Glasgow based artist who painted a series of images of Glasgow tenement flats from the outside, often with lit windows, looking in on the life inside. In these images the light is usually warm and intimate.

b. Rut Blees Luxemburg’s image of tower blocks give a similar feeling, and utilise similar colours, concentrating on golds and browns. Images can be seen in the Guardian article below. ‘Towering Inferno’ is an example of this, but although the colours are warm, the images are massive, and give an overview of the flats, not similar to the more intimate views I was looking for in my series.

c. Todd Hunter has explored the concept of home at length in several series of works, one of which ‘The Ghetto‘, is a 3D model of the street he lived in, with colour transparencies place within the doors and window, lit from within. You have to walk along the model to look into the rooms.

There is also a series of other images taken within the rooms of people who lived (and often still do) on that street. These images and the display had been taken in response to an article in a local newspaper which described the area as ‘a blot on the landscape‘ (, 2017).

sp 2777 001
Ghetto 6 © Tom Hunter, with permission from Tom Hunter.

d. Todd Hido has also utilised artificial light, taking both outdoor images of houses at night and inside images. Like Tom Hunter, these are not beautiful in the traditional sense, but tell you a lot about the lives of people living in modern America, however these rely on the rooms themselves to tell the story, not the people within the rooms. I felt this was more in line with my idea.

The Process:

I took a long series of images at a cottage we were staying in in the country in Dumfries and Galloway. It was well away from any town, and the only light in the evening came from the lights in the cottage itself. I took some of the images handheld, with the ISO set to 6400, and the rest of the images using a tripod with the ISO at 800. I used a fully manual mode throughout. I have discovered that using manual settings slows me down and makes me think more about what I am focusing on and which bit of the image I want to have exposed in most.. It was not easy to use the tripod outside as the ground around the cottage is very uneven, and it was tricky to get a stable and straight image, so some of the ‘better’ shots were actually handheld, in spite of the high ISO. A more stable tripod would have helped here.

Images were taken from outside, looking at and through the windows, and inside. I did not ‘tidy up’ in advance of taking the images as I was looking to show the contrast between the outside images, where you could imagine almost anything, and the inside reality.

The images were processed in Lightroom CC, with minimal changes. I did not alter the white balance as it feels accurate for the lighting conditions and what I wanted to show.

Contact Sheets:

Initial contact sheet for all the images:

Selected images marked with exposure, aperture and ISO:

I spent some time thinking about how, and which images to choose. I was not sure whether to stay with a given orientation or whether to mix between landscape and portrait. Most of them were portrait due to the nature of the windows so I chose to go with these, – but some of the individual images were more pleasing as landscape.

I also took some images that showed a person, and although they were interesting felt that this distracted from the overall idea of the set. The other possibility was pictures taken later in the evening, where the outside of the cottage was effectively black, and only the windows showed. This image combines both those ideas.

With people.jpg

Final Images:

Sunroom - outsideSunroom - insideLivingroom -outsideLivingroom - insideKitchen - outsideKitchen - insideBathroom -outsideBathroom - insideBedroom - outsideBedroom - inside


My idea here was to show the difference between what you see, and therefore can imagine, when looking from outside of a picturesque country cottage to what is actually happening inside the same rooms. Fantasy versus reality. I chose not to show any people in this set of images, leaving them quite stark and factual.  Overall, I am fairly pleased with the set. In some of the images the inside light is very bright, and might benefit from more post processing – but the significant contrasts were there, and in this case, I did not wish to ‘play’ with the truth any more than minimally.


Paton, A. (2017). [online] Available at: [Accessed 23 Oct. 2017].

the Guardian. (2009). Photographer Rut Blees Luxemburg explores the public spaces of cities. [online] Available at: [Accessed 23 Oct. 2017]. (2017). House Hunting. [online] Available at: [Accessed 23 Oct. 2017]. (2017). The Ghetto Series | Tom Hunter. [online] Available at: [Accessed 23 Oct. 2017].



Weeks (3) ending 20/10/17


Not a very productive 3 weeks!


  • more images of the cottage by artificial light
  • lots of attempts at studio work for exercise 4.4 – with variable success


  • Stephen Shore – The Nature of Photographs, interesting and easy to follow
  • Leibesleid – Rut Blees Luxemberg – fascinating images especially when read alongside the prose poem accompaniment.
  • The photographic Image in Digital Culture – Martin Lister – complex arguments about what is an image when it is made up of pixels and electrons in the ether.  Does how the image is made matter? Is it the vision or the actual print that is important – how does it effect indexicality.


  • How do I portray autism in images –
    • can I use items from the ADOS (diagnostic) kit – looking at imaginative versus concrete thinking
    • how do you show  altered sensation?- overlay sensory organ with something else – or is that too obvious
  • About light and its role in photography – Todd v Luxemberg v Shintaro
  • From Notes – quote by Robert Frank ‘Tell them to make work that is close to their heart. It seems to me that no-one can expect more than this’ (Notes, Autumn-Winter 2016, p 18).

Attended the Study Day in Glasgow – needs a write up.

Interesting work related to autism study

This entry is to collect links of interesting work that will feed into my study on how to document  autistic spectrum disorder (ASD).

It will be updated as and when I find relevent links

Big Brother – Louis Quail:

work describing his brother’s life with schizophrenia:

Looking for Alice – Sian Davies

work about her daughter with Down Syndrome:

Awakenings – Hannah Laycock

work about her own struggle with MS:

Jo Spence – The Final Project

work about her own impending death from cancer

The Time of Her Life – Lesley McIntyre

work about her daughters life and death from an unknown neuromuscular wasting condition




Exercise 4.4


Brief: Use a combination of quality, contrast and direction of light to light an object to reveal its natural form.

I spent some time experimenting with this. I chose to use a simple and quite weathered shell, placed on a black piece of cloth. I used a variety of lighting:

  • daylight
  • overhead artificial light
  • a soft ring lamp
  • a hard point lamp
  • on camera flash

and tried these out in a variety of combinations. The camera was set on a tripod and I used a remote trigger to allow for the increased time. I focused manually, but saw when examining the images that the focus was not always on the most interesting area of the shell. This would be worth revisiting using a greater depth of field.

I ended up with 14 variants on my first trial:

Out of these the ones that I thought most interesting were the ones with the point light, they dis not show as much detail of the whole shell as those with a more intense light such as the natural light with added flash, but seemed to have the potential to give more sense of the shape of the shell – so I went and experimented further. I used mainly a single point light from various angles , and then added in a second softer light to cut down some of the shadow.

Scan_20171016 (4)

My overall favourite image is the top right of these using 2 lights with the inside of the shell lit up, and  a slightly softer shadow.

It would be worth experimenting further with flash bounced off a reflector.

Learning points:

  • studio work takes lots of patience
  • take notes carefully or you get confused
  • more than one light can be helpful
  • direct flash is very harsh


Exercise 4.5


The brief:  Search for Google images on a subject, then add your own images paying particular attention to the criteria for creativity. (imagination, invention, experimentation and development of a personal voice). Describe how your images are different from the ones in Google search.

I spent some time thinking about a subject for this exercise, looking at peppers (thinking of Weston), landscapes (Fay Godwin), shells (more Weston) and flowers (Carla van de Puttelaar). If you look at the Google screen shots of these 4 subjects  they are all remarkably similar. They are pretty, in the case of the landscape sometimes beautiful). They are all colour images – this surprised me. Most of the individual images are on a white background, again this surprised me as it would rarely have been my choice. Everything looks ‘perfect’, no blemishes to be seen. All could be used in advertising pictures , although the advertisement might be very boring.

I eventually decided to go down a different route and took pictures of penguins at our local sea-life centre. This was a challenging exercise, partly because they were often moving very fast, partially underwater, and, like often in Scotland, the light was not great.

On looking on Google the images are generally similar in theme to those above. The images are in colour, they are attractive, show the penguins in their natural environment (where few of us will have the luck to see them) and they are resoundingly cute.

I felt that I wanted to show penguins in a different way. Yes, they do spend a lot of time in the snow, and yes they can look very cute, but here, when we most often see them, they are shut in a relatively small pen. Their main environment is water, and I thought it was important to try to show how they related to that.

I  then changed the images to monochrome in Silver Efex 2, using a variety of processing changes to try and get the watery effect I was after, while still maintaining the essential nature of the penguins.

I was happier with these images as they seemed to show the penguins in their natural habitat, without distraction of colour.

The image I am most pleased with is this one as there is minimal distraction, they are clearly having fun and you can see the outline of the underwater penguin well:untitled-21

Learning points:

  • most of the images on line are very similar, and concentrate on the ‘pretty’ and ‘cute’ aspects of photography
  • look for different ways of seeing things
  • close up can be useful