Category Archives: ASSIGNMENTS

Assignment 5 – Making it up

                                                                                                                             Orcadianicity Simon Chirgwin 2017

Three things feed into this image:

  1. Firstly, there is the poem itself (Like a Beacon, by Grace Nichols) which I first encountered as a Poem on the Underground on my way to work a little over a year ago
  2. Then there is Roland Barthes’ 1961 essay, Rhetoric of the Image which deals with the way an advertising photograph for Italian food products intentionally creates its meaning for a specific target audience.
  3. And finally, there is me.  Like Nichols I grew up on an island and now live in London; like Nichols, I haunt art galleries; and like Nichols, I sometimes long for a taste of foods that i grew up eating…

This third thing is what pierced me, drawing me to the poem. This is one of things i am trying to say with this picture. I think I am attempting to transfer a Barthesian punctum – or the literary equivalent of one – from one medium – a poem – to another – a photograph.

Of course, I am not a poet. I am a white European man, not a West Indian woman. My mother did not give me whisky with my tea and haggis is not particularly Orcadian. But I do like to eat it and clapshot is definitely Orcadian (and tasty too, if you add plenty of butter and pepper). Continue reading

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… Continue reading

Constructed Realities: Rejected Ideas for Assignment 5

Each part of the course has thrown up ideas for this, final assignment; and each bit of course work has left something hanging, something that deserved a bit more attention than I was able to give it at the time:

Part 1 fed into thinking around the idea of just how ‘true’ a photograph isthat has been burbling along underneath all the other parts of the course; large chunks of my online tutorials have dealt with my increasingly conscious attempts to evade the indexicality (the direct correlation between thing photographed and the resulting image) of the photographic image. Also, this part of the course introduced the idea of constructing images rather than taking them. The idea of ‘truth’ became slipperier by the day…

Part 2 contained the revelatory idea (which I’d been circling round, without ever quite managing to sieze it ever since I first read The Ongoing Moment, some years ago now) that still photographs had more in common with poetry than with prose, when it came to the production of meaning. Narrative becomes more capable of alluding to things rather than telling a straight beginning-middle-end story.

Part 3 gave me the various sequences of diaristic photographs and allowed me to play with some of the ideas associated with conceptual art in the late sixties and early seventies as well as freeing up my inner surrealist a bit.

Part 4 allowed me to think about theory a bit and about the way that photographs produce meaning (or rather how viewers take the clues from within photographs and turn them into meanings) as well as reintroducing me to Cartier-Bresson and his contemporaries.

When my tutor suggested that I stage a street scene, constructing my own decisive moment rather than waiting for it to coalesce before me, my immediate reaction was to dismiss the idea out of hand. The amount of effort required – casting, storyboarding, taking the picture and on and on – was immense. And of course, I don’t have the time at the moment and I have set the clock ticking for getting C&N in for assessment by the end of April. And of course, somewhere there must be a bit of me that was horrified after absorbing all the tedious rules people set up around “street” – setting something up is cheating!

But then, soon after, I was walking home from Jubilee Park with Alice when I saw a great varied cluster of people at the bus stop outside the ex B&Q on the Lea Bridge Road. In a series of movements I got my camera out of my pocket, flipped open the ever-ready case (hah!) and brought my camera up to my eye just as a bus swished up and they all got on. Regardless, I still liked the shapes in the shot and took three pictures, stopping after a man positioned himself in the centre of the bus stop and started doing something with his phone.

Later,  when I got home and downloaded the pictures to my laptop, I realised that the framing was almost identical across the set and thought that maybe I could try collage-ing them into something by way of an exercise to try and answer some of my questions about seamless compositing and also to have a go at constructing a single moment from a number of indecisive ones.

Anyway, after about half an hour of messing around with layers, layer masks and the airbrush tool in Photoshop, I had welded the three pictures together, and could see where additional pictures could have been taken to add detail: something –  a cyclist heading right to left? a foregrounded pedestrian’s shoulder and the side of their head, waiting to cross the road? – in the bottom left corner of the picture, perhaps; maybe some more people at the bus stop.

Composite Picture

Even without the extra details, it isn’t bad I think, but for the assignment I think I’d want something a bit more planned, a bit more – well – meaningful somehow.

I had a better location for a constructed decisive moment, possibly one that referenced a picture roughly contemporary with the early work of Cartier-Bresson.

058/159-044 André Kertész Meudon, 1928 gelatin silver print 23.8 x 17.7 cm (9 3/8 x 6 15/16); 45.7 x 35.6 cm (18 x 14) Collection Soizic Audouard, Paris André Kertész photographs reproduced courtesy of the Estate of André Kertész and the Jeu de Paume/French Ministry for Culture and Communication

André Kertész Meudon, 1928

For the book that went with the TV series The Genius of Photography, Gerry Badger chose André Kertész’ 1928 picture Meudon as the first photograph he would look at in depth.

He writes (p.11): “This is clearly a ‘decisive moment’ picture, a particular instant in time when Kertész – probably looking for the train but also grateful for the man with the parcel – decided to press the shutter. […] But there could be another explanation behind the making of this photograph, Kertész may have known and posed the man with the parcel. […] We know that a day or two before making the picture Kertész made a ‘dry run’ or two. One of these shows the emptry scene, and in another there is the passing train.”

I have often thought about the possibilities offered by the view of Selborne Road in Walthamstow as you approach it down Vernon Road. Running across the back of likely frame there is a raised section of railway nd track as the overground approaches Walthamstow central. Trains pass every few minutes or so. People on foot and on bicycles and buses and cars, enter stage left pe stage right. And there on the right there is the spiral up to Sainsbury’s roof top carpark. I have never managed to  get all these elements to come together at a single time. Perhaps I could do this with a series of pictures, each one getting a single element right.

Simon Chirgwin Walthamstow 2017

Perhaps, I could also find someone to carry a picture across Vernon Road, between me and the junction…

But that would involve coordination, casting and waiting for a day when the southern sky wasn’t so bright, and the road so in the shade of the embankment that taking the pictures would be a technical battle against the contrasty light. I had another idea up my sleeve. One that would not involve anyone else. And one that would not involve leaving the house.


Badger G. (2007) The Genius of Photography – How Photography Has Changed Our Lives 1st Edition. London. Quadrille


Assignment 04 – A Picture Is Worth A Thousand Words

A version of this post revised in April 2017 is available here.

Three women, frozen in time, are looking out at me, doing… something.

SPAIN. Valencia Province. Alicante. 1933.

fig 1. Henri Cartier-Bresson; Spain –  Valencia Province. Alicante. 1933.

Each woman touches one of the others.  On the left –  wearing a pointy hat and a floral-patterned dress – a Mexican-looking woman has one hand on the back of the head of the woman next to her while her other hand stretches around her right shoulder holding – bang in the middle of the picture – a straight razor. On the right, a dark skinned – African? – woman leans back. Her hair is pushed from her temple by the central figure’s left hand. She raises her left hand defensively towards her face; its palm could be either warding off a blow or trying to block the camera’s view. The fingertips of her other hand brush delicately over the strap of the slip – or is it a man’s vest? – crossing the central woman’s right shoulder. This figure leans in towards us wearing a marvelously neutral expression, emphasised in the composition by the light patch of out-of-focus plaster behind her and her head’s size within the frame.

I looked again and paused. Is the woman in the middle a man?  Her clothes are hard to read – is that a man’s vest? – the angle and the tangled arms mean you cannot see whether  she has breasts. Her face is quite masculine, and her eyebrows, while shaped, are thick. But the arms and face are hairless, too – the razor? or is it a woman being dressed up as a man?

My first thought had been of Matisse’s dancers, but his maidens dance in a ring, lost in their rite, unaware of being watched. These three are – regardless of gender – not maidens and make eye-contact with me through the lens of the camera, across time. Then, my mind glanced away to another Spanish scene and another razor, slicing across an eyeball at the start of the film, Un Chien Andalou (Buñuel & Dali) but it wasn’t  the razor that kept me looking.  I felt uncomfortable having been spotted; caught looking at something I am not supposed to see; I am in a place where I am not supposed to be…

But of course, where I really am is standing in front of a black and white, sixteen by twelve inch, gelatin-silver print, placed by its label in space and time. Alicante, Valencia Province, Spain 1933 hangs on the wall of the Fine Art Society, part of an exhibition (Cartier-Bresson, 2016) of fifty prints made under the supervision of the photographer, Henri Cartier-Bresson, for an American collector, in the 1990s.

Later, I find out more about the picture (Cartier-Bresson, 1933a). It was taken before Cartier-Bresson became a defining figure of photojournalism, differentiating his work through the idea of “The Decisive Moment”. At this time he was simply the dilettante son of a prosperous French family, travelling with his revolutionary (and expensive) Leica camera, finding out what he could do with it.

Cartier-Bresson had spent time in Paris, studying painting and hanging out in his spare time with the Surrealists (Chéroux, pp.15-18). From the former he had absorbed rigorous ideas about geometry in composition and from Surrealism the idea that the intrusion of the random (something in the wrong environment; the subconscious bubbling up into dreams; an everyday object treated with surprising veneration) could transform reality into something considerably more charged.

FRANCE. Paris. Place de l'Europe. Gare Saint Lazare. 1932.

fig 2: Place de l’Europe. Gare Saint Lazare.

The previous year, Cartier-Bresson had already created at least one of the images defining The Decisive Moment (fig. 2: Cartier-Bresson, 1932), but this picture is quite different.  It will not be included in the book (Cartier-Bresson, 1952) which established the concept in the public mind. The background has not been chosen to be brought alive by the intrusion of chance action; the camera is not static, but instead tracks with (while not quite containing) the lurching movement of the three figures from left to right. And there is obvious collusion between the photographer and the subjects. Indeed, there is even another photograph of two of them in front of the same wall, available on Magnum’s website.

And there is obvious collusion between the photographer and the subjects. Indeed, there is even another taken of two of them in front of the same wall, available on Magnum’s website.

SPAIN. Valencia Province. Alicante. 1933.

fig 3: Valencia Province. Alicante.

This second picture (fig. 3: Cartier-Bresson, 1933b) lends support to the idea that the central figure is male (vest? – yes – and trousers), the keywords associated on Magnum’s site with both  – “Man – 25 to 45 years“; “Woman – 25 to 45 years“; “Homosexual“; “Prostitute” seem to deliver a definitive judgement. “Mischievousness” – another keyword – further suggests the spirit in which Cartier-Bresson and his accomplices set about making the picture.

But, having to some extent cleared up its mysteries, I was still left with something more than a picture recording some fun had by Cartier-Bresson with people he’d stumbled across while – like Brassaï and others in Paris at the same time – combing the seamier side of Alicante. The question remained of why it still held me.

I’m looking up from below the women’s eyeline and three pairs of eyes stare down at me; all three expressions are flat, knowing, yet unreadable. In Rhetoric of the Image, Barthes (1964 p.44) had already highlighted the disjunction between the present (pictured in a photograph) which has passed by the time it is looked at. Then, in the second part of Camera Lucida, Barthes  (1981 pp 111-113) considers whether a direct address to the camera can fulfill the role of punctum – a subjective link with something in a particular photograph  – creating a link across years, between a picture’s subject and the viewer across years. He concludes yes and I agree; it is here that the power of this image lies.

Whether or not the three people caught by Cartier-Bresson survived Valencia’s fall at the end of the Spanish Civil War (and transvestites and prostitutes wouldn’t have had an easy time under Franco) they would all be dead by now, eighty-four years later. I will never know who they were or exactly what it was that they were acting out, but I do still wonder.

And now Cartier-Bresson is also dead and the prints in the exhibition are all for sale, none for less than eight thousand pounds. If I had the money, it is the picture I would buy from the exhibition. I like it a lot. But it would not hang in my living room acting as a token of value and of my good taste. That would cauterise its mystery. Rather, I would tuck it away around a corner – on the way to the bathroom, perhaps – where visitors, like the viewer inferred by the picture, could stumble across this ambivalent scene, stare a moment and wonder what it was that they had just seen and just why it left them feeling somehow unsettled…

(1081 Words)


  1. Barthes, R (1964) Rhetoric of the Image In: Barthes, trans Heath (1977) Image Music Text London. Fontana. pp 32-51
  2. Barthes, R , trans Howard (1981) Camera Lucida London. Vintage
  3. Buñuel, L and Dali, S (1929) Un Chien Andalou France
  4. Cartier-Bresson, H (1932) FRANCE. Paris. Place de l’Europe. Gare Saint Lazare. [silver-gelatin print] [online image] Available from: (accessed 13 January 2017)
  5. Cartier-Bresson, H (1933a) SPAIN. Valencia Province. Alicante. [silver-gelatin print] [online image] Available from: (accessed 10 January 2017)
  6. Cartier-Bresson, H (1933b) SPAIN. Valencia Province. Alicante [silver-gelatin print] [online image] Available from: (accessed 10 January 2017)
  7. Cartier-Bresson, Henri (1952)  Images à la Sauvette Paris. Verve, (also published in English as The decisive moment New York, Simon and Shuster)
  8. Cartier-Bresson, Henri (2016) Decisive moments. London; The Fine Art Society
  9. Chéroux, Clément (2008) Henri Cartier-Bresson – New Horizons. London. Thames & Hudson

Assignment 4: “A picture is worth a thousand words” – Choices and Preparation

Write an essay of 1,000 words on an image of your choice. The image can be anything you like, from a famous art photograph to a family snapshot, but please make sure that your chosen image has scope for you to make a rigorous and critical analysis.

  • If you choose a well-known photograph, take time to research its context – the intentions of the photographer, why it was taken, whether it’s part of a series, etc. Add all this information into your essay to enable you to draw a conclusion from your own interpretation of the facts.

C&N Coursebook (p.105)

1: So, first things first: choose a picture to write about…

a: Lennon and McCartney (seen as part of the exhibition Bailey’s Stardust, Scottish National Portrait Gallery , 2015).


John Lennon and Paul McCartney, 1965

The picture comes from the set published as Bailey’s Box of Pin-Ups in 1965. I’ve liked his work for about as long as I’ve known that photographs are taken by people with names and popped over to see the exhibition with my son one Sunday morning in the august gap between finishing The Art of Photography and starting Context and Narrative.

As a result, there isn’t a post about the exhibition on my blog here (it did exist as jotting in the notebook I lost at Stansted on the way up to see James in Glasgow another time in March, but this has always seemed an exhibition better written about in relation to Identity and Place) but I thought straight away that this one would be a good candidate for C&N A4. This idea was strengthened by the plentiful, not always damning but never quite unequivocally praising, criticism of Richard Avedon’s West pictures in Criticizing Photographs.

There are a lot of similarities between Avedon and Bailey – black and white, plain backgrounds, never quite regarded as art, fashion photographers etc – so there is plenty to write about in that before you get onto the difference between a single portrait (about the sitter, and there are plenty in the contact sheets for the session of both of them)  and a double portrait (about the relationship between the two people) or start thinking about the whole Picture Of v Picture By thing.

(My son liked the big print of the picture of Andy Warhol in the first room, by the way. As ever, the curse of liking-a-picture-in-an-exhibition meant that it wasn’t available as a postcard.)

b: Sao Paulo, Se (seen at The Barbican as part of the Constructed Worlds Exhibition, 2015)


Sao Paulo, Sé 2002

Andreas Gursky  was taught by Gerd and Hilla Becher at Dusseldorf, is classed as part of the Dusseldorf school of photography (along with Thomas Struth and others). Until recently, a print of his picture Rhein II (1999) was the most expensive photograph ever sold at auction.

Like Rhein II and the other picture by Gursky exhibited at The Barbican (Paris, Montparnasse,1993) it was printed in a limited edition of six and is absolutely enormous (nearly three metres by two metres). Presumably it’s worth a lot of money too, It’s size means it is possible to stand and stare at the picture for a very long time, soaking up the detail with the picture filling pretty much your entire field of vision.

This was the inspiration for my constructed image from part one of the course. The many floors of New Broadcasting House lent themselves to this sort of treatment and It also helped that I havebeen to Sé Metro station in Sao Paulo and have some pictures taken there hidden deep within my crate of prints that I need to do something with.

For the purposes of Assignment 4. this would be great picture to look at from the point of view of both the physical scale and financial value put on this sort of work, the way the constructed reality gradually becomes obviously false as you look at the picture and  the way it fits in with Bate’s writing on how fine art painting’s genres appear to have reasserted their hierarchy of merit with the rise of Neo-Pictorialism.

Also, I would look at how the constructed nature of a lot of contemporary photography is feeding into my working practices, for this course at least. One candidate for the final assignment is a remake of my New Broadcasting House construction where I would hope to make a better fist of ensuring that (to quote Eric Morecambe) you can’t see the join(s)…

c: Alicante, Valencia Province (seen at the Fine Art Society, London as part of the exhibition Decisive Moments, 2015)

SPAIN. Valencia Province. Alicante. 1933.

SPAIN. Valencia Province. Alicante. 1933.

And then finally, various coincidences have led me to think about this early picture by Henri Cartier-Bresson. At the time I wrote about the exhibition it was part of,I was going to use this picture along with one by Shirley Baker (whose exhibition at the Photographers’ Gallery I saw at much the same time) as dry runs for trying out the stuff in Terry Barrett’s book, before tackling assignment four.

Like so many other good intentioney things, I didn’t get round to writing it up of course, but the picture kept burbling around somewhere inside my head while I got on with putting off other things, and sometimes even getting around to do them. And then it got pulled back to my head by a number of coincidences.

Firstly, while pulling together assignment 3, I had  re-read online, Tod Papageorge’s Essay on Influence and enjoyed it to the extent that I bought the book it is collected in (Core Curriculum). One of the other essays in the book is on Cartier-Bresson (p. 30-39) which contains a lengthy digression on “a picture taken in the thirties in Alicante” that looked as if it was taken with a shorter lens than is normally associated with Cartier-Bresson” (a 35mm lens rather than a “normal” 50). The digression was ultimately inconclusive, but i had always wondered about whether this picture (and some other early Cartier-Bressons) had used a wide lens (there’s a slightly distorted “bulginess” to some of them – in this one the central figure looms out at you more than you would expect with a 50mm lens – and a depth of field that would be hard to get with a 50 without slowing the shutter-speed right down) and the Spanish reference seemed to indicate this one.

And then here was  Cartier-Bresson’s interest in surrealism and friendship with the surrealists to set alongside my semi-surreal opening up of assignment three for comparison’s sake, and I was reading Papageorge on a plane flying back from Moscow, where I had been shooting one of the later photo-diary sequences on a trip for work. There seemed to be a possible link between Cartier-Bresson’s very early work in the 30’s and my lunchtime neo-flaneuring while overseas on business. The surrealists were of course interested in the injection of chance into their work and this seemed rather like a gifted intellectual objet trouvet.

Accepting that I would never get round to writing the descriptive warm up post, I added the picture to my shortlist and started thinking about what I could write about it for the assignment proper rather than my warm up.

So, which one to choose?

In the end, it was quite simple really. While both the Gursky and the Bailey and the questions they raise about art and the position of photography in the gallery (on the wall, obvs.) engage me intellectually, both are quite flat in terms of their effect and neither really bit into the realm of my feelings. Something about the Cartier-Bresson had kept drawing me back to it while i was at the exhibition and then had continued to nag at me afterwards. This was at the very least an indication that there might be a punctum there for me to explore alongside the more manifest content of the photograph. I also like the fact that – like much of his early photographs – it is not contained by the idea of “The Decisive Moment”.

David Bailey’s exhibition probably fits more obviously into Identity and Place than it does here. Gursky’s constructed/manipulated pieces are more likely to feed practically into something I’ll be ready to do later. As well as fitting in with where I was before I started the course, the Cartier-Bresson touches off all sorts of stuff in my head. Valencia Province, Alicante 1933 it is…

2: A Few Short Paragraphs on Preparing to Write the Essay

My first degree (Joint Honours English Literature and Film & Television Studies at Glasgow, back in the 80s) contained a lot of theory, so I haven’t had to go through the pain threshold experienced by (some) people the first time they come acoss post-Saussurean linguistics, Levi-Strauss, Lacan et al and was quite pleased to see that I haven’t forgotten it all or lost my ability to concentrate while reading long, dense passages of translated prose. It has been useful to bring this dogeared grounding in theory up to date and to point it more in the direction of stills photography by reading Catherine Belsey’s brilliant, readable (and properly funny in places) Post Structuralism – A Very Short Introduction and Richard Salkeld’s Reading Photographs.

While I own a copy of Mythologies (it’s somewhere in the attic, boxed up an waiting for us to move, early next year sometime), I hadn’t read much Barthes before the last year. I have now read Camera Lucida at least twice and quite like it, as much for Barthes’ search for his lost mother’s image, as for the framework it gave for thinking about photography. That said, I like the distinction between punctum and studium and the onus it places on the viewer to make their own meaning of a picture and admire the cheek of only referring twice to pictures that aren’t of people while also effectively dismissing “shock” (Chapter 14, p. 32-34) and with it almost everything Cartier-Bresson took as a cheap trick, rather than something of value. But more useful, perhaps was the considerable amount of discussion in the second half of the book of the meaning of the direct address to the camera (and through it, across time, the viewer) and the way all photographs are – to Barthes in his bereaved state at any rate – mementos mori.

David Bate’s Photography: The Key Concepts (‘The Pictorial Paradigm’, p. 137-140) was excellent in terms of providing a genre-based framework for looking at photographs and to link it back to the hierarchy of subjects used by the 18th/19th century French Academy and then re-applied (by critic Michael Fried and others) to incorporate photography into art photography as the 20th century came to a close. Cartier-Bresson (and the Street Photography he was a forerunner of) fits neatly into the lowest class, of genre painting (the everyday lives of non-noble mortals) itself quite easily. Bate’s more recent book (Art Photography) further expands on a lot of the ideas in this section of The Key Concepts.

Finally, in terms of writing the essay, the structure outlined by Terry Barrett in Criticizing Photographs (description – interpretation – categorisation – context) forms an easily applied structure for the assignment proper. I find Barrett’s categories of photographs (Descriptive, Explanatory, Interpretive, Ethically Evaluative, Aesthetically Evaluative and Theoretical) interesting but – as is almost any all-encompassing theory of anything – have my doubts as to how useful they may be.

I also should have read more of Gilda Williams’ How to Write About Contemporary Art than I have, and will make sure that I have, before I do any rewrites prior to submitting the module for assessment. It looks clear and very interesting…

3: Essay Plan.

While a thousand words seems an awful lot to write, that clause is already ten words, or one percent of a thousand.  The whole sentence is twenty-one words, or more than one fiftieth of a thousand. So not a lot of words at all. Therefore, it was a good idea for Gary, my tutor to suggest I write an outline before I started writing the assignment proper. Here it is:

1: Manifest Content/Studium + associations 

  • What do I See? – Description  – 3 women. Mysterious thing taking place. Matisse dancers; witches in MacBeth; Razor.
  • Disturbing somehow.
  • Look again – man or woman? – metadata online at Magnum etc
  • Layer upon layer of ambiguity.
  • Nags at you.

300 words


2: So how does it work?

  • Composition Foregrounding of Central Figure
  • Low Angle – the three women (or two women and a man) are above you, superior
  • Movement (left to right) – close to the Gestural Photography idea outlined in Papageorge (and exemplified for him by Robert Frank)

200 words


3: What is it not?

  •  “captured” – rather it is a collaboration between HCB and the subjects – he’s too close for them to have been unaware, there’s another picture of two of them taken at the same time
  • A Decisive Moment (none of the geometry + random disturbance of the DM; also not in the 1952 book
  • shot with a 50mm lens

150 words


4: What is its effect on me? (Punctum)

  • The looks (Part 2 of Barthes)
  • The surreal (With Spanish location) Un Chien Andalou + Bunuel; dreams; disturbing?
  • All lead to I am where I should not be, seeing something I should not see – Dance of the Vampires and the mirrored dance hall

200 words

5: Where Am I really? – In a gallery, looking at a photograph.

  • Art + Money (the print as token of value)
  • What are prints for – display (Elton John; Tate Modern)?
  • Would you have it on the wall of your house? Which wall?

150 words




1: Bailey

2: Gursky:

3: Cartier-Bresson:

  • Magnum Photos –
  • Clément Chéroux – New Horizons: Henri Cartier-Bresson (Thames & Hudson, 2008)
  • Tod Papageorge – Core Curriculum (Aperture, 2011)

4: General Criticism (Cultural and Photographic)

  • David Bate – Photography: The Key Concepts (Bloomsbury Academic, 2009)
  • Terry Barrett – Criticizing Photographs (4th Edition, McGraw Hill, 2006)
  • Roland Barthes (tr Richard Howard) – Camera Lucida (Vintage, 2000)
  • Richard Salkeld – Reading Photographs, An Introduction to the Theory and Meaning of Images (Bloomsbury, 2014)
  • Catherine Belsey – Post Structuralism – A Very Short Introduction (Oxford University Press, 2002)
  • Gilda Williams – How to Write About Contemporary Art (Thames and Hudson, 2014)

Assignment 3 – Reflection



1: Demonstration of Visual Skills

I think I have taken something with which I am very familiar, here  (my face staring out at me from the mirror) and made it strange. Or possibly stranger. I may have created a series of masks to hide behind.

I think the assignment submission contains definite performance elements (recording the removal of facial hair; masquerading as “myself”) and then transforms that record of performance into something new by seeking out online the – random – participation of others. I have succeeded in making up an online game about portrayal and Identity and getting other people to participate in it. Continue reading

Assignment 3 – LDWT – The Pictures

We dress like students, we dress like housewives,
or in a suit and a tie
I changed my hairstyle, so many times now,
I don’t know what I look like!

from Life During Wartime: David Byrne (1979)

A quick check of my wallet and the pockets of my jacket at any time over the last six months would have revealed at least three  – and sometimes as many as six – cards or documents whose sole purpose was to identify me to one representative of authority or another. All of them contain at least one head and shoulders photograph conforming to a very tight set of specifications relating to expression, background, angle, whether I wear my glasses or not and so on.

All these photographs are different. They each seem to freeze the me that existed at some moment in time. None of them looks particularly like the me who stared back at me out of the bathroom mirror this morning. Even moments after they had been taken – and the oldest of them still in use is almost exactly 18 years old now – they fall in some way short of how I perceive myself and indeed what I hope other people see when they look at me.

I can create personas based upon them – there’s harrassed-middle-aged-dad me (my driving licence) and chained-to-a-radiator-in-Beirut me (my work pass) – or I can grimace slightly (making me look a bit like an older, even-more-harrassed-middle-aged-dad me, I suspect) and pass through the particular gate where they give me access…

Here are another thirteen pictures of me, again made according to a strict set of rules but this time of my own devising. I have to believe (and officials need to believe) that, for a fraction of a second I once looked like the person in the pictures in my wallet and jacket. All the pictures here are identifiable as me (even # 224313) and each of them contains elements of a me that existed over the course of one day in May 2016.

But I have never looked like any of them. Not even for a fraction of a second.

If you want to conjure more Simon’s from the remaining traces of the Simon that existed on the eighth of May 2016, feel free to go here and follow the instructions.

And do let me know how you get on.

Thanks to:

Rob™, Sean Groundwater, Maciek Bernatt-Reszczynski, Owain Rich, Thea Downie, Blas Gonzales, Lee Hard, Anne Bryson, Chris Lawry, Hilary Farrow, Holly Woodward, Richard Brown Sam Bennett, Richard Down, Emma Pocock, Miri Comber, Stephen Barney, Doug Bell, Stan Dickinson, Dawn Langley, Dave Emrys Newton



Assignment 3 – LDWT Picture Strip Masters

Mimicking the folder I set up on my G:Drive

 Images as made public in July 2016