Assignment 5 – The Idea

Construct a stand-alone image of your choice. Alternatively, you may choose to make a series, elaborating on the same theme […] The only stipulation is that you produce work that has been controlled and directed by you for a specific purpose. Remember to create a story with a specific context like the artists you’ve looked at in Part Five. This means you need to have an artistic intention, so a good place to start would be to write down some ideas.

– Context and Narrative Course Book (p. 122)

During part two, I wrote this in my post on using a poem (Like a Beacon by Grace Nichols) as the basis for a photograph:

“A constructed picture. A still life, along the lines of the” [Barthes/Panzani] “pasta ad!”

I even went so far as to make up a shopping list and reckoned that I might have made the resulting still life some time in March.

That was, of course, in March 2016…

The idea rattled around in my head, though surfacing every now and then as I slowly progressed with the course (often in tandem with other ideas I’d put away for later) until the point where I came to the start of part five and realised that I needed an idea for a picture to construct for the assignment.

The poem idea seemed to pull together a little bit from each part of the course:

  1. Viewed as a document, the resulting photograph, based upon an advertisement and constructed in a studio, would have an interesting relationship with objective truth, even before you get into questions of how representative it was of what I ate when I was growing up.
  2. In the first place, the poem idea came from this part of the course. There is a strong element of narrative contained in a picture showing the ingredients for a meal bordering upon a national cliche (pasta and tomatoes for the original advert; haggis and clapshot for my remake) even before you get onto the idea of a shopping trip contained both by the arrangement of the food spilling out of a shopping bag in the picture and in  the poem itself.
  3. The photograph is once again putting plausible versions of me into the picture  – the childhood me who ate my mother’s cooking and also the grown-up me who reads Barthes and is prepared to play with signs and signification.
  4. The constructed image will contain a strong metatextual element in addition to its denotative content. As well as the obvious references to the original advertisement (and an attempt to match Barthes’ four meanings contained within it), I shall be adding a fifth meaning, centred on my knowing approach to the picture I am “copying”. It is as much of a reaction and a critique of the Panzani advert as my essay was of Cartier-Bresson’s “Valencia”.

And now, since one of the requirements of this assignment is to produce around a thousand words outlining what it is that I think that I’m doing. Therefore, the post for the assignment should include all the thinking behind the picture in addition to the image itself.

By way of a taster though, here is one the stages in the development of my constructed image, Orcadianicity


  • Grace Nicholls, Like a Beacon – from Poems on the Underground, Tenth Edition, edited by Gerard Benson, Judith Chernaik & Cicely Herbert (London: W&N, 2001)
  • Roland Barthes, Rhetoric of the Image from Image Music Text, trans. Stephen Heath (Fontana, 1977)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.