Assignment 4 – My Mother’s Pictures

Assignment 4 asked for a series of images that were informed by and developed from text.


Much of the work for assignment 4 is based on the reading that I have been doing in and around Part 4 of IAP. I have read several books on memory and how it can be portrayed in photography, specifically  Geoffrey Batchen – Forget Me Not(Batchen, 2006), Marianne Hirsch – Family Frames (Hirsch, 2012) and Annette Kuhn – Family secrets (Kuhn, 2002). Non of these were directly related to the use of text with images, but they all talked about memories and identity and how this can be shown in images. This was relevant to me as I chose to focus on my mother, her memories (Exercise 4.5 – My Mother’s Memories) and my and other people’s memories of her (assignment 4). I have also been reading A.S Byatt’s book (Byatt and Harvey Wood, 2009) on memory for interest and background information about how our memory works.

For more specific photographic work on using text with images I looked at Time in New England  by Paul Strand and Nancy Newhall (Strand and Newhall, 1980), Anna Fox has done much work that involves words such as My Mother’s Cupboards and My Father’s Words, (Fox, 1999) Work Stations, and Cockroach Diary (Fox, 2000),  Aaron Schuman – Slant (Schuman, 2019)and the work of Sharon Boothroyd/YoungDavid Favrod    – Hikari (Hikari, 2015) based on words he heard his grandparents say about their history in Japan. This influenced the work in exercise 4.5.

I have also recently looked at the work of  Zarina Hashmi – Home is a Foreign Place who , when she was wanting to make a piece of work that helped her understand her feelings about her childhood home, took a series of words in Urdu that made her think of home, had them written out in Urdu script and then illustrated them with wood cuts which she made into a grid.  This piece made me think of the use of single words that linked to a memory and that could be illustrated with images.


I am very aware that I have few exact memories of my mother, far less than I feel I should have, so decided to explore this.  I started by using her words and memories in in Exercise 4.5 – My Mother’s Memories to produce a video and an album. I then decided to explore this further by using words triggered by the family’s memories of her to produce text to base images on.  The details of how I obtained the text words used is described in Assignment 4 – Initial Thoughts.

Having acquired the words, I grouped them into categories. This is detailed in Assignment 4 – First images.  I then looked through both my mothers and my old photo archives to find images that showed her at important parts of her life. While looking for these images I found an image of my grandmother and a family shrine they had set up after her death. I followed this idea and made a series of still life images that included a picture of her and some relevant items (my mother’s when possible). As many as possible of the images and frames are the original ones, but some of the pictures were so small that I had to scan them and enlarge them to enable the detail to be shown. I took the images outside as the garden was always her favourite place.


Beach Baby
Land Girl

Learning points:

  • Sorting though archives is a very slow process
  • When re-photographing pictures in frames it is wise to remove the glass to avoid undue reflections
  • Family work takes an emotional toll
  • Still life set-ups are difficult to make without either being overly repetitive or using so much detail that it obscures rather than helps the original image
  • Adding text – here in the form of titles – is hard because the images were inspired by the word categories, and not always exact links

Contact sheets of possible images of my mother:


Batchen, G. (2006) Forget me not: photography & remembrance. New York; London: Princeton Architectural; Hi Marketing [distributor.

Byatt, A. S. and Harvey Wood, H. (2009) Memory: an anthology. London: Vintage Books.

Fox, A. (1999) My Mother’s Cupboards and my Father’s Words: a short story in words and pictures. London: Shoreditch Biennale.

Fox, A. (2000) Cockroach diary 1996-1999. London: Shorditch Biennale.

Hikari (2015) At: (Accessed 28/05/2020).

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.

Schuman, A. (2019) Slant. London: Mack.

Strand, P. and Newhall, N. W. (1980) Time in New England. Millerton, N.Y.: [New York]: Aperture ; distributed by Harper & Row.

5 thoughts on “Assignment 4 – My Mother’s Pictures”

  1. That’s a really super piece of work, Zoe! Not sure if you maybe should have included a couple of the more ambivalent words from your list (‘sarcastic’, maybe or ‘conceited’?) although that would have added to the emotional toll… Have a read of Martin Rowson’s ‘Stuff’ if you get a chance – fascinating stuff about his relationship to his parents, his father in particular; funny too…


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