Final Thoughts on IAP

I have now come to the end of Identity and Place. I have added my selection of work to the G-Drive. I have written up all the meetings I have attended while doing this course. While doing IAP I have thought long and hard about my identity and how it can be shown. I have thought about where I live, who my family is and my genetic background. Oddly enough I feel more settled in myself for doing this.

I have learnt some new techniques. How to make a video (although only a very basic one so far). How to upload to Vimeo and YouTube. How to search family archives and choose some out of a plethora of possibilities.

I have learnt something about how to approach people to ask to take their photograph, when it is ethical and fair to do so, and, just as important – when it is not. I know I am not good at directing people, but I am getting better at engaging with them to make an image that says something about their personality. Giving them (and me) time to relax works well, listening to their stories tells me what is important to them.

Am I a better photographer for this? That may depend on your definition of better. I am certainly more thoughtful. I actually take less images than before I started this whole pathway. I definitely take different ones.

I have read a lot. I have found I enjoy reading biographies of photographers. I also enjoy learning about art history and especially contemporary practice. Work that I would have previously looked at and thought “What on earth?” I now give more time. I may still not like/appreciate it but at least I have given it a chance. Slow looking. Experiencing the work not just glancing at it.

Most of IAP has been done under the restrictions of Covid and lockdown. This has undoubtedly limited my opportunities to go places, talk to people and visit galleries. It has increased my reading and thinking time. It has allowed me to see exhibitions on-line that I would never have seen, to listen to people talking about their work, to engage with my peers via zoom. To look at some of the work done by others during their time of isolation. Some positive outcomes to balance against the difficulties.

I will move on to Digital Image and Culture. Hopefully, I will take some of these lessons forward. With thanks to my tutor Chris Coekin – who pushed me well out of my comfort zone and the support of many of the other students at OCA – without which I would have probably given up

Rinko Kawauchi: Keeping the Fire Going

This work by Kawauchi was produced during lockdown and was one of the pieces of work discussed in our recent Zoom with Arpita Shar. It was the work I initially liked least – so I decided to give it a chance and look at it slowly (as suggested by Marta Grabowska) (Grabowska, 2020) and also examine it using the steps suggested in the book Ways of Looking by Ossian Ward (Ward, 2014).

Grabowska’s article is mainly about looking at art works in a museum – where there is a tendency (and I admit, one I am guilty of) to rush around looking at everything and seeing nothing.  She talks about the book Seeing Slowly, looking at Modern Art by Michael Findlay which is now on my reading list. Her main point is to give the piece of work time. Look at it before you read about it. Ask yourself questions about it. Try and connect with the work in an emotional, spiritual and sensory way as well as an intellectual way.

Ward suggests looking at any contemporary work using a tabula rasa, a blank slate approach and gives this guide:

  • T = time – stand still and take stock for 5 breaths
  • A = association – can I relate to it personally?
  • B = background – is there a backstory, a clue in the title or where the artist comes from?
  • U = understand – what is the artist trying to tell you?
  • L = look again- what have you missed?
  • A = assessment – what do you now think?

So, using a combination of these methods what do I really think?

© Rinko Kawauchi

The work, as shown in the article, consists of 9 images. On first glance they are not linked in any way but on looking harder and for longer they are all about light and life. Some are downright odd. What is that grey shape against the trees? Is it dust? Is it water? Is it the spray from a fountain or someone watering plants? As I look at it, it changes. A polar bear pouncing on prey. A ghost of my cat (long dead). Another – a beam of light coming through the trees, split into multiple colours. A ray of beauty against the darkness. On looking at it for some time I am tempted to print it off and hang it over my desk to give me something to stare at when I am stressed and tired. A picture of a young girl walking away from you, taken against the light, or rather though the light.  Mist, mystical, mysterious. Who is she? Where is she going?

Kawauchi is a Japanese photographer whose many books all talk about light. One is even called Illuminance (Kawauchi and Chandler, 2011). Like this short series it gives pictures that have no obvious explanation, bursts of light, ones that would be easy to discard as a ‘failed image’, a ‘mistake’. Others show odd details, the end of a lit cigarette. A fly. Others that expound life in its glory and mess – from a baby’s toes to the moon.

In her written explanation of Keeping the Fire Going she says ‘I clicked the shutter button when I felt inclined to; I didn’t have a particular theme in mind…..throughout history, calamities of various forms… have threatened us. But in spite of that history, here I stand, now. I have to keep this little fire in my chest going’ (Kawauchi, 2020).

So – I started by not liking/appreciating these images at all. By looking at them slowly, thinking about them, considering them in a sensory way, they have become the series that holds the most importance to me. The one I will look at again and again.


Grabowska, M. (2020) The Art of Slow Looking by Marta Grabowska. At: (Accessed 28/09/2020).

Kawauchi, R. (2020) ‘Keeping the fire going: a visual response to coronavirus’ In: The Guardian 19/06/2020 At: (Accessed 28/09/2020).

Kawauchi, R. and Chandler, D. (2011) Illuminance. Aperture. New York.

Ward, O. (2014) Ways of Looking: How to Experience Contemporary Art. Laurence King Publishing. London.

Unconscious Bias

I listened to a talk by Dr. Praya Agarwal on unconscious bias which was based on her book –Sway (Agarwal, 2020) in which she talked clearly and extensively about the problems we have with even noticing bias. I took reams of notes which I have summarised below:

  • Racism often occurs in a subversive, insidious way
    • It is embedded in our structure
    • Everybody does not start from the same place
    • Social media and workplaces trap us into communities – so we often do not see what else is out there
  • Technology carries bias
    • One hand – levels field and allows access – but not all have access
    • Extroverted people have an advantage, others get left behind
  • Unconscious bias are the implicit produces embedded in our subconscious mind – which we are often simply not aware of
  • Children grow up in a gendered society from a very young age
    • Clothing/hair length etc
    • Boys are less likely to read a book or watch a film with a girl as the central character
    • Female authors are moe likely to be read by females
    • Girls form perceptions from early on about what they are likely to be good at – is that nurture or nature?
  • Biases can be ‘unlearnt’
  • Bias against black fathers – less nurturing – bias that black families are ‘broken’
  • Evolution developed the notions of in-groups and out-groups – because of limited resources
    • Still present – but nurture driven (no genetic basis)
  • You form a affinity with people like you – that extends to assumptions about their other qualities
  • There is a bias about status
    • More likely to trust people with a high/visible status
    • Based on fears/threat and concerns re own status
  • Fear is processed quickly via amygdala – often irrational
    • Leads to falling back onto instincts /first impressions rather than conscious thought
  • Decision making
    • Fast v slow
    • Automatic (quick and often stereotyped) v controlled (via frontal cortex – thought about)
    • Effortless v effort filled
    • Associative v rule based
  • Gender view of emotion
    • There is an assumption that women are more emotional and do not handle pressure asa well
    • Influences decisions in hiring formats
    • Men are thought to be more aggressive/authoritarian
    • Women are often assumed to be more compassionate
  • Bias about skin colour starts very early ?age 3
    • Parents need to discuss racial heritage especially in mixed race families
  • Newspaper articles often foster increased bias especially around racism/sexism.
    • You cannot automatically believe what is written
  • Privilege allows avoidance of bias (sometimes)
  • Remember that some biases are positive! – but this can lead to putting people in boxes.

Steps to avoid /minimise bias:

  • Avoid generalisations
    • This person, not all people
  • Avoid group thinking
  • Think twice and allow time for consideration
  • Look at things from a different perspective

Everybody always has biases but consciously reflecting on them can help retrain the brain. Social media can lead to extremism as people are afraid of not conforming and tend to join groups/get surrounded by people who agree with them. It is important to allow discussion and dissent or you only ever see what you already believe.

Interesting talk and well worth the time. I will add her book to my reading list.


Agarwal, P. (2020) Sway: Unravelling Unconscious Bias. London: Bloomsbury Sigma.

Photography During a Global Pandemic

Arpita Shah gave us a talk on photographers who have produced work during the Covid pandemic. She (and we) looked at multiple genres and discussed the work done during lockdown across the world. Clearly some people have managed to use the time very productively. She showed us the work of 19 artists – all very different. Inevitably, some I enjoyed more than others. The theme of taking images though windows was recurring – inevitably in this situation, although one person – Robert Ormerod used a drone, and others worked with archives.

Rania Matar’s work – Across windows was one I really liked. She showed people though a pane of glass. The reflections and the surrounding windows took equal weight to the people. Many of them were looking away from her, past her gaze rather than overtly engaging. Some look trapped, others resigned. None are joyful. They are simply titled with the name of the person and the place. I have since looked at other series by Matar. Her main focus is on showing girls and women and their identity. She (Matar, s.d.) shows a series of portraits of women, usually outside, often half hidden by foliage. The clothing has been carefully matched to the surroundings – Alasia – in a white dress standing upright in a field of (I think) cotton, Lisa – with her hair echoing the colour of the wood panels she stands against. The images are taken either in the US (where she lives) or in the Middle East (where she comes from) and ‘explore the issues of personal and collective identity….to portray the raw beauty of their age….and the organic relationship they create with their environment’.() Most of the portraits are ¾ length, but not all, they include distant shots and close ups. Most are individuals, but some are pairs of girls. Many are looking away or are pictured from behind. This series is due to come out in book format next year. I will watch for it.

© Rania Matar – Alasia, Gambier Ohio, 2018

Lisa Sorgini (Hirve, s.d.) also has photographed people though glass. In this case the images are much darker. The reflection is important, but the window itself is rarely seen. She has concentrated on images of the mother and child. Often much of the body is lost in shadow, only partly seen. They remind me of the early Dutch paintings – although I am not sure why – I think the colouring and the density of the shadows. This work seems to be an extension of an earlier series Mother which again shows mother and child – although here in a much lighter setting.

Clara Leeming’s work – again though windows contrasts by being much more fun filled. The people are smiling, engaged with the fun of having their photos taken – maybe it is a bit of light relief in a day filled with sameness and boredom. This was taken in Britain, so the images are more instantly recognisable.

One of the series I most enjoyed was Neha Hirve – both your memories are birds – (Hirve, s.d.) where she , having moved to her to her childhood home in India just before lockdown, was staying with her elderly grandparents so took images if them, details such as their hands and the environment they were in. Most images are black and white, with sudden bursts of colour – a yellow Marigold glove, brilliant red flowers lit up in the dark.  Simple and beautiful.

© Neha Hirve

Alexia Websters work I have already looked at in more detail as it fitted with work I have been doing – see Alexia Webster – Tracing Lives

Other people took images to form a diary of what they were doing.  There is a series of 3 photographers who were asked to take images of the lockdown for The New York Times and who produced 3 very different pieces of work. One (Devin Oktar Yalkin) said “This feels like the first time in my life where the immediacy of everything around me can be photographed all the time without worrying about anything else. There’s more clarity in being able to just look and watch things occur, especially in such a liminal space.” (Ruben and Webster, s.d.) () Elinor Carucci (Carucci, 2020) has focused on taking a very intimate series of images of her family – including a picture of hand-washing. Jocelyn Allen (Allen, s.d.) documented her pregnancy. Hard enough at any time – but now!

There’s were also several options where people showed how strange things had become. London at night without any people (Jan Enkelmann), social distancing while queuing (Agnese Sanvito).

Amy Elkins has been taking a series of self portraits and posting them on Instagram. She usages o variety of methods, cyanotypes, inverted black and whites (leaving her looking like a ghost). The discipline to take and post a daily image is awesome. On one of her posts she comments ‘Trying to wear gratitude like a cloak…. I’ve never been this challenged in my life’ (Elkins, s.d.) – is that about the photographs ? Or about life in general?

The piece of work I liked least was that by Rinko Kawauchi –Keeping the fire going  (Kawauchi, 2020) which is odd because I usually enjoy her work. For some reason these did not ‘click’ for me. I am practicing slow looking with them – leaving the series on my screen and seeing what happens. I may well come back to this in more detail.

I have now (some weeks later) done this – and this was the result!

We also looked at 2 OCA students work in some detail.  These were interesting to discuss and showed that it was definitely possible to make work under the present circumstances. Thanks to Emma and Sarah for sharing.


Allen (s.d.) Jocelyn Allen – Waiting For Things In A Time When… (2019-20). At: (Accessed 24/09/2020).

Carucci, E. (2020) A Photographer’s Diary of Life in Isolation. At: (Accessed 24/09/2020).

Elkins, A. (s.d.) Amy Elkins (@thisisamyelkins) • Instagram photos and videos. At: (Accessed  24/09/2020).

Hirve, N. (s.d.) both your memories are birds. At: (Accessed 23/09/2020).

Kawauchi, R. (2020) ‘Keeping the fire going: a visual response to coronavirus’ In: The Guardian 19/06/2020 At: (Accessed 24/09/2020).

Matar, R. (s.d.) SHE – Rania Matar Photographer. At: (Accessed 23/09/2020).

Ruben, J. and Webster, A. (s.d.) ‘The Quotidian and the Surreal’ In: The New York Times At: (Accessed 23/09/2020).

Realising an Assignment

I attended one of Angela Norrington’s informative talks. For once my notes were legible. – so rather than retyping them I will append them as scans.

One part I found particularly interesting was the discussion about black and white versus colour.  In spite of a general swing to colour plenty of photography is still done with B/W. It allows for concentration on the formal aspects of the image: shapes, texture, tone, form.  Plenty of photographers switch between depending on what sort of work they are doing.  Jeffrey’s quote on colour reducing to an idea less readily than B/W is interesting. Colour is specific – that place – not any place, that person – not any person. If you are planning a black and white image you need to be in the correct mindset. Take the pictures in black and white – not just convert to B/W. Sudden blobs of colour may really stand out – but the same area may hardly show in B/W.  Mixing the two needs to be carefully thought through – and may not work in a small series.

Think about your outcome format. Experiment to see what works best. Try prints, zines, handmade books. Check, check and check again!

Keeping Up Momentum

This was an interesting whole OCA discussion arranged by Helen Rosemier. Much of the discussion was coloured by the impending assessment and people’s fears about that. (Including my own).

  1. Beverly gave an interesting talk where she started by describing her own work and talked about how far it had changed over time from painting to working with dust to make items. She had done (among other things) an endoscopy on her vacuum cleaner! She made several helpful points:
    1. The importance of experimentation – this leads on to thinkings about alternative ideas, which may not come to fruition for years – experiments are seedlings.
      1. Write up all experiments and research
    2. Don’t be afraid to shift your practice – just make a strong rationale for it
      1. Explain why you have shifted and, if possible, where you are going
    3. Develop a dedicated studio space – so you don’t have to constantly put things away half done, room to spread out and think of ideas
    4. Enter open calls – allows engagement with the real world, improves confidence
    5. Write about your work and practice, also think about related artists
      1. Research leads to enhanced work, gives ideas
    6. Maximise the benefits of contact with your tutor – get things asa far as you can before looking for feedback
      1. Look for engagement with other students to get things going
    7. Edit, edit, edit – show your strongest work
    8. Signpost how you want things to be seen – maybe send in photos of how it should be displayed
    9. Keep your learning log up to date – write things up when they happen
    10. Allow plenty of time between last assignment and assessment
  2. Kate talked about UVC and how she felt it had been critical to developing her work and understanding. She discussed her concerns re assessment:
    1. The discrepancy between guidelines and the coursework
    2. Understanding the learning outcomes
    3. Fear of not making an optimum selection
    4. Feeling unsupported and alone – worsened by Covid.
    5. The need to be proactive about asking for help – student services, other students, course leaders if needed
    6. Need to analyse your blog
    7. STOP when you have done enough
    8. Good habits to develop
      1. Careful essay structure
      2. Thorough referencing – but all sources into a referencing system
      3. Be clear about word count
      4. Be familiar with LO’s – from the beginning
      5. Be aware you wont always understand things from the first time through
      6. Look outside textbooks to get more information
      7. Blog about what you don’t understand as well as what your do
      8. Remember to document the obvious things
      9. Make personal work as well
  1. Alan said he had struggled to get though course because of personal issues but that lead on to home as very personal piece of work
    1. He looked at relationships and medical issues
    2. Think about ‘mistakes’ and serendipity
    3. Note issues and once identified think about how you can resolve them.
    4. A mistake may lead you to a more holistic series
    5. Don’t always automatically delete a ‘bad’ image – as it may be just what you need to spark a project
    6. Use moments of boredom to make experimental pieces
    7. Take creative risks
    8. Think – about ethics, what is happening
    9. Remember to show process and thinking
    10. Think about the reverse side of photographs – think of them as an object.

General points discussed:

  • Each assignment/course builds on previous ones.
  • Review your work, try and think like a tutor
  • Reflect on why things work – and why they don’t. Make notes on it.
  • Remember all art is subjective
  • How much of yourself are you putting in
  • Remember to look at others work
    • Social media
    • Instagram
    • Photoworks
    • TPG
    • 100 heroines

Overall, this was a well worth attending meeting.  There are also note available on G-Drive made by Lynda with very useful advice.

Seeing versus Looking

Angela Norrington gave us a very interesting tutorial on the subject of seeing and looking. She utilised a lot of quotes from other authors and clips from films which I am working my way through following up.

The basic premise of the talk was ‘it’s not what you look at – it’s what you actually see that is important’. It is a skill that needs exercised, an active attempt at understanding and can be equated to listening rather than just hearing.

She quoted from Maria Gainza Optic Nerve (Gainza, 2019) about Stendhal Syndrome. I have now read the entire book and found it fascinating, well worth reading with access to the internet at hand to look up the various artists she talks about.

Angela suggested having a regular place or subject you returned to, as you will see something different each time as gradually get a deeper appreciation of it. She also reminded us that looking quickly at everything available means you never truly see anything.  This is something I have found a potential problem in lockdown. There are so many talks/lectures/zooms/museum showings available to look at that I have become overwhelmed and cannot really remember the important parts of anything, or often, even to watch what I wanted to. (Remember 30 second reports- on what you have seen). I need to add Letters from Tove (Jannson, 2019) to my reading list!

Responding to things (images, art, pictures, places) with emotion is critical – what is it about something you have seen that stirs the emotion  – if you can replicate that you have a picture that is ‘peculiar to you’ – from David Suchet.

We also discussed the art of slow photography and slow looking – worth investigating further, and the book Photographs Not Taken (Steacy, 2012) where photographers talk about the images that they missed, the lost shot, where something else got in the way. I have started reading this and it is fascinating- makes you think about what an image is.

The whole talk is available at:


Gainza, M. (2019) Optic Nerve. London: Harvil Secker.

Jannson, T. (2019) Letters from Tove. Translated by Death, S. United Kingdom: Sort of Books.

Steacy, W. (ed.) (2012) Photographs not taken: a collection of photographers’ essays. Hillsborough, US: Daylight Community Arts Foundation.

Learning Outcome 2

Learning outcome 2 is about translating ideas into visual outcomes. The assignment I did which best realised this was Assignment 5 – A Very Private Lady. This assignment built on assignment 4 and my initial work with archives is shown there and in Exercise 4.5 – My Mother’s Memories where I first experimented with video.

Assignment 5 tell the story of my mother’s early life. It was a difficult piece of work to do because of the emotional difficulties of working with an archive and the words of someone who has died recently.

The research was important, both to inform what I was doing and to give me the impetus to take it forward. The most valuable piece was reading Annette Kuhn Family Secrets (Kuhn, 2002) as it made me think about the past and memories in a different way.

My original plan was a photobook, this changed to a video and then I made a supplementary photobook following on from discussion with my peers Further Reflection on Assignment 5 with Added Book – My Mother’s Story. The final piece remains a video. 


Kuhn, A. (2002) Family secrets: acts of memory and imagination. (New ed) London; New York: Verso.

Assignment 5 – A Very Private Lady

Assignment 5 is the final piece of work for Identity and Place and is a self-directed assignment.  Identity and Place as a unit is about thinking about how to tell stories of people, their lives and how the place they come from effects that.

While I was working on the unit my mother died and I found myself going though all her belongings. She never threw anything away. I found a massive collection of photographs from her childhood on, together with ones of her family, friends and all the places she had been to.  Most of these I had never seen before. They were collected in the traditional manner- not filed or sorted in any way but left in old print envelopes and stored in shoeboxes. Very few were labelled (and of the labelled envelopes some were clearly wrong – presumably reused). There was one early album that had a few of the people named that went up to about 1945.  Mixed in with the photographs were postcards, cuttings from newspapers, tickets, bills of sale for every house she had lived in and letters. I also found a written story of her and her family’s life up to the end of WWII that had partly been written by her and partly by one of her brothers and  a copy of a dissertation done by my cousin which told the hidden story of the treatment of Germans in America in WWII and the internment of many of them which included quotes from my mother and her family.

My mother had always been very reluctant to talk about her past life and I knew very little of it. In the final months of her life she had agreed to talk a little and we recorded what she said.

Assignment 5 is made up of some of her verbal story, 7 minutes cut from 2 hours of recording, together with a small fraction of the vast archive of pictures and memorabilia she had collected. Some of the photographs are captioned with explanations from her written story.

This piece leads directly on from the video I made for Exercise 4.5 – My Mother’s Memories. In that case I was interpreting my emotions about her words though my own images, while here I am using her own archives to tell the story more directly. It is more factual, more telling and I find it almost unbearable to watch.


Much of the research for this comes from the work done earlier in IAP and is described in Assignment 4. I have also looked at archival work and read the fascinating essay on it by Thinking about Archives by Susan Breakell. To some extent I approached this as a curator/archivist and so found the discussion I attended on this type of work by Susan Bright (see: Susan Bright Lecture) helpful for background knowledge. I have found several photographers work fed directly into my thoughts on how to present work that is essentially a memory piece and a tribute.  Murmurs by Martina Lindqvist talks about what is important at the end of life. Mother by Paul Graham (Graham, 2019) I find almost unbearably poignant. Larry Sultan in Pictures from Home (Sultan, 2017) was inspiring in its mix of found snapshots, storytelling and new photography. Deborah Orloff in Elusive Memory (Orloff, s.d.) talks about the connection between photographs and memory as do both Marianne Hirsch – Family Frames (Hirsch, 2012) and Annette Kuhn – Family secrets (Kuhn, 2002).

I have also done some research into the ways other people have used familial archives to produce pieces of work. Michael Abrams – Welcome to Springfield (Abrams, 2012)invented a whole story about a fictional town.  Daniel Meadows – Digital Stories (Meadows, s.d.)used his own memories and archive photos to produce short videos. Jim Goldberg – Gene (Goldberg, 2018) used the archive and story of an elderly man in Gene to tell about life and memories at old age, not dissimilar to the work of Julian Germain in  For every minute you are angry you lose sixty seconds of happiness (Germain and Snelling, 2011). Alexia Webster – Tracing Lives (Webster, 2020) and Catherine Panebianco (Panebianco, s.d.) both repurposed family images and mixed them with present day images to tell their personal stories.


I considered two ways of showing this

  • A video
  • A photobook with short quotes from her words
  • I eventually decided on a video because I felt that actually hearing her talk about her experiences was important, as her voice echoes her emotions.
  • Following discussion and feedback from the online IAP support network I have also made a photobook (a work in progress) from the images and others to form a lasting record for our family (see: Further Reflection on Assignment 5 with Added Book – My Mother’s Story)


  • I did a written transcript of all the recordings, then ordered them in time and tried to pick out the most important pieces. This was difficult and the recording could have easily lasted 20 minutes or more to give the details.
  • The level of her voice varies, partly I think due to how tired she was at any given moment, but also to how difficult she was finding telling some parts of the story.
  • I then went through all her collected memorabilia and found the photographs and cuttings that were relevant to this time period.
  • I made a version on a black background and on a white one. I eventually chose the black as it seemed to be clearer and fit the subject matter better.
  • The video was uploaded to Vimeo
  • Following feedback from my tutor I added a slightly more personal touch at the beginning and end of the original video.


Learning Points:

  • Looking though archives takes a long time, and you need to be ruthless about choosing images/memorabilia to use
  • This might have been a better project to do when I had achieved some emotional distance
  • It is very difficult to decide what is of more general interest against specific family interest
  • Small and old snapshots are hard to enlarge successfully as every mark shows
    • But – are the marks actually part of the story?
  • I need to start to archive (note use of the noun archive as a verb) my own work more carefully with more tags and names attached to people
  • Feedback from both peers and tutor really helps to make a more coherent piece of work.


This was a difficult piece of work to do and I am not convinced I have done it justice. I may yet rework it in the future. When reading the latest aperture I came across this quote ‘The archive is one of the spaces where that exchange takes place, where the living go to encounter the dead. It’s a strange business, summoning ghosts. For the most part the work is repetitive, an orderly, laborious process of logging and transcribing. But every once in a while, something happens. You look down, and beneath the surface someone looks back’ (Laing, 2020).


Abrams, M. (2012) Welcome to Springfield. Washington, D.C.: Loosestrife Editions.

Germain, J. and Snelling, C. (2011) For every minute you are angry you lose sixty seconds of happiness: portrait of an elderly gentleman. (Second edition) London: Mack.

Goldberg (2018) Jim Goldberg’s New Book is a Tender Portrait of Old Age • Magnum Photos. At: (Accessed 09/09/2020).

Graham, P. (2019) Mother. London: MACK.

Hirsch, M. (2012) Family frames: photography, narrative, and postmemory. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard Univ. Press.

Kuhn, A. (2002) Family secrets: acts of memory and imagination. (New ed) London; New York: Verso.

Laing, O. (2020) ‘A Fold in Time’ In: aperture 239 p.95

Meadows, D. (s.d.) Digital Stories on Vimeo. At: (Accessed 10/09/2020).

Orloff, D. (s.d.) Deborah Orloff. At: (Accessed 10/08/2020).

Panebianco, C. (s.d.) catherine panebianco. At: (Accessed 09/09/2020).

Sultan, L. (ed.) (2017) Pictures from home – Larry Sultan. London: Mack.

Webster, A. (2020) ‘Tracing lives: a visual response to coronavirus’ In: The Guardian 26/06/2020 At: (Accessed 30/08/2020).

Reflections on IAP

Identity and Place is aimed at making you think; about who a person is, what they are, where they are, and how these three things link together. Then how it can be shown by photography. The images might stand alone or be associated with words (yours or that of others) or recordings. When I started IAP I was extremely apprehensive about taking images of people as I had never taken many portrait images in the past. This was despite my eventual goal to to take images of people with autism and tell their story.

I have thought about this at some length, below is a description of the work and some of my thoughts, with the main learning points bulleted and illustrated.

The first part involved taking pictures of people who were unaware of you and also of of aware strangers. I experimented with taking pictures of ‘the unaware’ by going to the Edinburgh Festival and walking the streets. Most people were so involved with what they were doing that they simply did not notice me.  Although the exercise was successful, I do have ongoing concerns about the ethics as in that situation it was impossible to gain model releases. I went on to approach strangers in my street and asked them to allow me to take images.

  • I need to take more control of a photo shoot without losing spontaneity.
  • Think about ethics – how much is the story worth; how can you get model releases.
Edinburgh Festival – totally unaware of anthing other than her phone – nomodel release – an ethical dilemma
The Social Worker – a stranger who gave her time to help me, shows my lack of control over my model

For part two I worked with two sets of people with autism. In the first set I tried to take more control of the people I was photographing – but this had the downside of leading to some stiff and unnatural images. The other session where I simply chatted and took images when they, and I , were relaxed was much more successful.

  • Engagement with people makes for a better image, allowing me to come up with images that are more personal and tell more about them.
Reflective Sam – the individual image worked – but the series lacked coherency. The background is too complicayed and does not add anything
Rich – still looking away – but a much mproved take on his personality

In part three I looked at narrative, telling stories of people and groups. I joined a group of people at a club over 3 months, the individual images were successful and the people at the club loved them – but the final story did not hang together well.  I also spent some time with friends who run a guest house and who are immensely proud of their garden. This went together much better and I produced a newspaper for them.

  • Think about narrative, and plan what images you need – in a long-term project you have time.
  • Think about alternative ways of showing things, a single print, a book, a newspaper.

By parts 4 and 5 lockdown was in full swing so I started to work with archives. My mother had recently died, and I had a huge number of her images, keepsakes and writing to look at, all unsorted. I experimented with using images of her put into small, still life set-ups to tell her story.  For this I had to work on how to re-photograph old images, removing them from glassed frames and picking items that complemented the images. I also started experimenting with video, using some of her recorded words and initially putting them with my own images to express both what she was saying and my emotional response to those words and then combining her archival images and keepsakes with her words.

  • Video work is a completely different skill set from photography and takes a long time.
  • Working with archives is fascinating but can take an emotional toll.
Choosing the words give an underlying pattern to the final images

Initial video – using my images to show the emotions i felt ta hearing her words


Overall, this was a fascinating course.

  • I did a massive amount of research into other photographers, old and new, well known and less so. I love research into how other people tell stories – but am easily led down ‘rabbit holes’ and can spend too much time on this. I need to learn to use the research to better inform my own photography.
  • I discovered that taking pictures of people is not as frightening as I thought it would be but relaxing and putting them at ease is crucial. My directorial skill needs improvement.

I found two quotes to take forward – ‘You’ve got to take responsibility for yourself, the way you see yourself, and the way you see the world. That’s a tantilizing and scary thing, but that’s what identifies people as artists’(Heiferman and Perez, 2020) and ‘The archive is one of the spaces…. where the living go to encounter the dead’ (Laing, 2020). This is what I need to remember.

I have now finished IAP, written up all the meetings and put some final thoughts together with thanks to people for support. This can be seen at:


Heiferman, M. and Perez, E. (2020) ‘The Original Ballad’ In: aperture 239 p.56.

Laing, O. (2020) ‘A Fold in Time’ In: aperture 239 p.95

A Learning Log by Zoe