Tag Archives: notes from the underground

NFTU #6 – close-ups and printing size

An article in today’s Guardian by poet Lydia Towsey opens: ‘Botticelli’s painting of the Birth of Venus was the first female nude painted and exhibited life size.’

james; waulkmill, 2017

The rest of the article – about body image and eating disorders and the way being the subject of portraiture can help recovery from them – has a lot more in it to consider, but it was the phrase ‘life size’ that captured my immediate attention. Continue reading

NFTU #5 – bona fides

business card design # 1 – based on a template by moo.com; other online business card manufacturers are available.

Thinking forward to the sort of work I’m likely to be producing during Identity and Place, I realise that there’s going to be quite a lot of photographing people who I don’t know. In the past, people have often asked why I want to take their picture and then, when I’ve said why, whether I have a card or some other proof that I’m not just some random idiot with a camera. It therefore seems a good idea to get some cards made up. Continue reading

NFTU #4 – A Blinding Flash!

Moscow – Hotel Warshawa, Room 518 (2016)

I was reading the chapter of David Bate’s book Art Photography where he considers “Archives, Networks and Narratives” and had reached the section that dealt with Sophie Calle’s Hotel Room photographs (pp 115-119). The work is made up of pictures taken by Calle while she was working as a cleaner in a Venetian hotel. They are a record of the possessions guests had left out, scattered around their rooms. The pictures are supported by Calle’s account of her employment and what she found in the rooms and when.  They allow you to construct a picture of the people staying in the rooms from the objects they have left behind. There is a distinct sense of surveillance and the collection of evidence. Looking at the pictures (I had first become daware of them in 2010 during the big Tate Modern show, Exposed ) you begin to wonder what the cleaner thinks of you as they clean your hotel room. Just what sort of person can be constructed from the things you leave lying around? Continue reading

NFTU #3 – Nikki Bird + Beneath the Surface


Scapa Court, Kirkwall (KW15 1BJ) in 1968/69 and in 2016

‘[Showing] the relationship between the past and the present […] so it’s not just “the past is over here and the present is over here” and that is it’

– Nicky Bird, interviewed on video for the Stills Centre of Photography in Edinburgh

While I was doing some reading on Nikki Bird for part 5 of C&N (around Question for Seller), I came across a later piece called Beneath the Surface, where Bird had worked with people whose part of Scotland had been “wiped away” to combine their photographs with up to date pictures of the places in the pictures. At the time when she first started thinking about this, she had been involved with an archaeological dig in Edinburgh.

Bugger! I thought. Continue reading

NFTU #2 – Tillmans at the Tate

To go along with his exhibition at Tate Modern, Wolfgang Tillmans was signing copies of the catalogue in the bookshop there this week. I’d already bought the book when I visited it soon after the opening, but I nipped out of work on the day of the signing and took my copy back to Tate. By the time I’d reached the front of the queue, I’d had enough time to think of something adequate to say about the exhibition so, as I stood in front of Tilmans (who is a tall man, even sitting down, I was able to say: “I enjoyed the exhibition; it made me think, and it made me think about my own photographs as well” which seemed a nice summary of where my head is at the moment and went down well with Tillman, himself.

I visited the exhibition at Tate Modern a couple of weeks ago, when it had just opened and was very impressed by the way that each of the rooms of the exhibition – described as installations – provided a shared context for the pictures displayed there; some of the pictures could have been displayed in different rooms from the one they were in, but then they would have gained some meanings and lost others. It was an interesting way to experience the show, heightened by the different sized pictures which forced you to step in and peer at one, and then to retreat across the room in order to be able to comprehend what the next was about.

The result was very different from Elton John’s collection of Modernist prints that is also showing across the bridge in the Switch House. There – in classic modernist style – they are hermetic, sealed, content to be just themselves. They’re beautiful, but they’ve been done and they cannot innocently be redone either.

They are – well – just photographs. They are lovely and it is great to see them, but they don’t make you want to somehow incorporate them into your own work or rather your way of working. Tillmans makes you (and helps you) construct your meaning from his rooms full of juxtapositions; the modernist pictures just are.



  1. (2017) The Radical Eye – Modernist Photography from the Elton John Collection. London. Tate Moderm
  2. Tillmans, Wolfgang (2017) 2017. London; Tate Publishing

NFTU # 1 – Joel Sternberg

Joel Sternberg: “A photograph is only a fragment of a shattered pot” (O’Hagan,2017, p.18)

Joel Sternberg: “You take 35 out of 360 degrees and call it a photo” (O’Hagan,2017, p.17)

So, am I taking (finding?) a series of shards that I hope will turn out to be a complete pot one day?



O’Hagan, A (2017) The drifter. The Guardian (G2). 11th January. p.16

Notes from the underground

I realise that I spend far too much time agonising over hitting ‘publish’ here (by which I mean in the wordpress editor) and as a result, I have at least four huge essays on the stocks that will need finishing off before this module goes for assessment. I also spend a chunk of the week on the Underground reading as I go back and forward between home and work.

And also, I could do with working out how to do the whole Harvard Referencing System thing.

So, I think I’ll try and pick up the publication pace before I start  Identity and Place and get in the way of jotting down markers for stuff that I find interesting or inspirational or just needing a bit more work to figure out properly. And also for quick bursts of thought occasioned by visiting an exhibition.

Oh yes – and I also came up with a nice smart-arse generic title. Always helps… Continue reading