Category Archives: Part 2 – Street and studio

Exercise 2.4 – Same background, different model

The Brief: make portraits of 3 subjects, keeping the background to the image consistent. These can be inside, in a studio, or outside with an interesting background.


All the work of this part of the course leads into these photographs and how you take them. I have summarised it in Project 2 – The aware and Project 2 – The Aware – 2


I decided to take the images in or around our local abbey. It has several advantages in that there are options for both inside and outside images.

I spent a session in advance of the main event exploring the possibilities with one of the subjects. We found several inside possibilities and several outside, which allowed for variation on the day if weather altered plans. I had thought about taking the photographs against the interesting twisted columns inside the abbey, but when I looked at the trial images they did not work as the background was too complicated.

I asked people to dress in a way they felt comfortable and explained the exercise to them and showed the group some of the trial images. I also explained that, while I wanted a relaxed image, I didn’t particularly want them grinning from ear to ear.


The weather was not ideal, as it was a very grey day, with little sunlight. This affected both the inside and outside images as there was limited light in the abbey, so some of the possibilities I had thought about were not feasible. I was not able to use flash in the area. We walked the site, stopping to take a group of images at 5 places. In each area I took photographs of each person and often a group image. Halfway through one of the people requested that her photographs were taken without her glasses on, so we went back and redid those ones.

I ended up with 2 sets of images taken inside and 3 outside.

The Tiffany Window. This stained-glass window was commissioned by Andrew Carnegie in commemoration of his mother and was originality planned to be placed in the original abbey but was thought to be not religious enough and after several placing in Dunfermline has now been mounted in the 19th century partial rebuild which is used currently. This option was the favourite of all the participants.

Inside the old abbey. There were several possibilities here, but on the actual day I was limited by the light and no flash. This meant that the backgrounds were not as interesting as I had hoped from the trial day.

The front door. This massive door is not used but is spectacular. To show the whole door meant that the images of the people were small, and the focus was on the background rather than their portraits.

The side door. This showed a balance between the old building and the people

The graveyard. I had hoped for some images here, but it was raining so they were limited. In the trial images the tree and the old gravestones made a more interesting scene than the final images of more close-up portraits with just a tree.

Learning points:

  • However well you plan things the actual shoot may not follow it because of circumstances out with your control – here, the weather
  • Trying to get 3 people to stand in the same spot is difficult – I should have taken something to act as a marker. This was further complicated as one person was much shorted than the other two – which meant that when a close-up was taken the background was different (maybe consider taking a small stool).
  • An interesting spot for the background may overwhelm the portraits

Overall outcome:

I was reasonably happy with some of the final images. I struggled to chose between the images in front of the Tiffany window (which was the preferred spot of all the subjects) and the ones on front of the doors outside. The main door was very impressive – but became a photograph of the door (with the people for scale) rather than of the people. If the weather had been better (or there was the opportunity to re-shoot) I think the images against the graveyard would be worth exploring further.

Final Images:

Abbey (1 of 1)-9

Abbey (1 of 1)-8

Abbey (1 of 1)-7

Contact sheets:




Project 2 – The Aware – 2

When thinking about portraits as well as considering who you are going to photograph (Project 2 – The aware) you also need to consider where. Just as dividing up who you are going to photograph you can also divide up the place into types:

  1. Inside – examples of these are the June Street images by Parr and Daniel Meadows, Daniel Meadows 2 and the Mother series by Paul Graham
  2. Outside – many of the images of Eleanor taken by Harry Callahan

Both of the places can be further subdivided into:

  1. A natural environment – the images by Sian Davey in Martha and Looking for Alice.
  2. A studio, which can be further divided into:
    1. Formal – an example of this is the work Gone Astray by Clare Strand where people are photographed against a backdrop of a Victorian type frame
    2. Informal – the work of Irving Penn in Worlds in a Small Room could be considered as a relatively informal studio, in that it was portable, although it became more fixed as time went on. A more informal studio was shown in Daniel Meadows Omnibus Project where he travelled around with a converted bus.

Interestingly there is a recent series of work by Sandro Miller shown on Lenscratch  I am Papua New Guinea available at:

In this Miller went to Papua New Guinea on three occasions, set up a studio and offered the chance for people to come and have the photographs taken in all their finery. The images, although mainly in colour, are strongly redolent of Penn’s images of a similar area of the world. Like Penn, he noted that many of these people have had little or no previous awareness of a camera. However, Miller’s images do give more of a feeling of the person rather than just the exotica and he identifies the people both by name and tribe, rather than showing a group of images that are exciting but impersonal.

An example of photographs of people taken mainly outside, in a ‘natural’ environment, is the work of Andrea Modica – Treadwell.  Treadwell is ‘a place in the imagination…. a fiction about a little girl growing up’ (Modica and Proulx, 1996).  In the initial essay by E.Annie Proulx,  Modica describes how she  ‘entered into an intimacy with the situation of place’ and took a series of pictures, not all in the ‘real’ Treadwell that tell the life of a girl growing up in a series of decayed farmhouses and crowded places. The places are allegorical, essential to the meaning, often ghostly or reminiscent of death. Without the landscape the story would not be present. Without the children there would be nothing but depression and misery. Both together give a possibility of hope.


Drew, R., Chandler, D., Eskildsen, U., Jeffrey, I., Mullen, C. and Strand, C. (2009). Clare Strand : a Photoworks Monograph. Brighton: Photoworks ; Göttingen, Germany.

Graham, P. (2019). Mother. S.L.: Mack. (2019). Sandro Miller: I am Papua New Guinea. [online] LENSCRATCH. Available at: [Accessed 11 Nov. 2019].

Modica, A. and Proulx, A. (1996). Treadwell. San Francisco: Chronicle Books.

Penn, I. (1974). Worlds in a Small Room. London: Secker & Warburg.

Siân Davey (2015). Looking for Alice. Great Britain: Trolley Ltd.

Siân Davey (2019). Martha. Hertfordshire: Trolleybooks.

Clare Strand

Clare Strand (born1973) is a British photographer. In her website she describes her practice as “rolling in the grass and seeing what you pick up on your jumper”. And says she ‘brings together intensive research, deadpan humour and insights into culture’ (Strand, 2015). Sean O’Hagan says, when talking about her exhibition The Happenstance Generator ‘There is always something odd – in a good way – about Strand’s work. That oddity rests in the tension between her often personal, always playful take on conceptualism and her wilfully old-fashioned methods – the archive images, black-and-white tones and kinetic machines here are a case in point’ (O’Hagan, 2015). In her latest work The Discrete Channel with Noise she looks at how the act of communication can lead to misinterpretation, starting with the issue that as information is transmitted digitally it is split into multiple minute pieces and these can be altered into process of reformation to a whole. This piece of work has just been shortlisted for the 2010 Deutsche Börse Photography prize. In an interview with Chris Mullen, Strand says, ‘all my work is about the nature of the medium of photography, its uses and its limitations’ and ‘the question is always ‘how much to give away to the viewer?’ it is possible to explain the image away and allow the viewers no space for their own interpretation…..there are issues throughout my work I want to leave unsolved ’ (Drew, 2009).

In one of her much earlier pieces of work Gone Astray Portraits she uses a 19th century convention of using painted backdrops to photograph someone against. She took a series of portraits of people, all of whom show a degree of distress or damage. The title comes from a story by Charles dickens which tells of a child lost in London and the anxiety that provokes. The background shows an apparently idyllic scene while the people are AK troubled. They look away from you, either sideways on, on with a failure of eye contact. They seem disinterested, both in the photographer and in their own problems. Chandler says ‘the ambiguities and cul-de-sacs in Strand’s work, qualities that leave the viewer on a continually slippery surface. Her art is in many ways an intensely private world, her projects are a way of resolving obsessions, of processing thoughts that simmer and won’t go away, many of them arising from the most ordinary of encounters and the most routine situations. Like the best photographers, Strand is a great and meticulous observer of details, and yet her work is rarely about that: the details are simply the things that lead her on, to enquire and to investigate, the work itself is then positioned at a point where her, often conflicting, evidence collides (Chandler, 2015). In this work there is the collision of the old with the new, the Acadian with the downtrodden, the photographer’s gaze with the lack of gaze of the subjects. There is said (in the OCA manual) to be a constructed backstory to go with each of these images, but I could not find them. In reality I wonder whether it is better to apply one’s own imagination to each of the somewhat surreal images and invent one’s own story.  Gone Astray Portraits was accompanied by Gone Astray Details in which she shows a series of images of details of happenings in the city, a child pulling on its reins, the legs of a woman, someone holding a dog’s tail. Looking at the two sets of images together which tells more about the city? Which is less staged – the people against the backdrop or the apparently real snapshots? Gone Astray Details is accompanied by a series of ‘short stories’. Small snippets, just a few lines long. An example is ‘1. On the corner of Bowling Green Lane, a Middle Ages woman suddenly fell to her knees on the pavement. There was no apparent cause. In the previous six months over twenty women have fallen at this spot.’ In my book Clare Strand (Drew et. al., 2009) the words run along under the full-page images or along the bottom of occasional blank page. The is no obvious connection between the words and the images shown. There is, in fact, an image of someone crawling on their knees but it is not placed above this particular story. Are they linked? Are they too beread as entirely separate meanings? The reader/viewer is thrown into confusion. She has, as she wants to, left an open question, an unsolved mystery.


Chandler, D. (2015). Vanity Fair r. [online] Clare Strand. Available at: [Accessed 31 Oct. 2019].

Drew, R., Chandler, D., Eskildsen, U., Jeffrey, I., Mullen, C. and Strand, C. (2009). Clare Strand : a Photoworks Monograph. Brighton: Photoworks ; Göttingen, Germany.

O’Hagan, S. (2015). Things fall apart: the photographer who destroys her work for fun. [online] the Guardian. Available at: [Accessed 31 Oct. 2019].

Strand, C. (2015). Clare Strand ~ Photographer ~ about. [online] Available at: [Accessed 31 Oct. 2019].


Irving Penn

© Estate of Irving Penn – from Worlds in a Small Room

Irving Penn (1917-2009) is an American photographer who is probably best known for his fashion images, often taken for Vogue magazine together with portraits of the rich and famous of that world. However, he also took the opportunity to photograph other people while travelling. Penn set up a simple outdoor studio, using a grey or whole cloth and only natural light. He then invited people to pose against it, using no props. He describes it as “The [portable tent] studio became for us both a sort of neutral area. It was not their home, since I had brought this alien enclosure into their lives. It was not my home since I had obviously come from elsewhere far away. But in this limbo was in us both the possibility of contact that was a revelation to me and often I could tell a moving experience for the subjects themselves.” (McLaughlin, 2013).  Initially Penn worked by locating studios and hiring them and asking people to come and have their photos taken. He then moved on to developing his own portable studio which could be set up outside. The images he took have a timeless quality as he used a very simple background cloth. When talking about the series of images taken of the Cusco people,  Kozloff describes it as ‘It is as if his subjects had stepped, not onto the stage to which theory were accustomed, but onto one of his imagining, a bare environment intended to set off their picturesque shabbiness to graphic effect’ (Kozloff, 2007). The images are studied, there is no apparent feeling for the individuals involved, just the costumes and masks the people wear. He went on to take other series of images such as those of the people from New Guinea and even groups of Hell’s Angels. His pictures of the celebrities, while more individual, show use of similar techniques of use of a simple backdrop and harsh light and shadow such as that of Woman with a Handkerchief (Jean Patchett) a Vogue cover from 1950. His images of the various native populations have often been described as exploitative as he used them as ‘fashion pictures’ rather than serious studies of the ethnography of the regions. However, he said about them ‘the people I photographed were not primitive. The primitive people are in New York’ (Goldberg, 1991).

© Estate of Irving Penn – Woman with a Handkerchief (Jean Patchett) New York

Penn was an eclectic photographer. As well as his portrait work, both personal and for fashion magazines,  he took pictures of flowers where he said he was ‘drawn to flowers considerably after they’ve passed their point of perfection’ (Smart and Jones, 2019) , cigarette butts and things found underfoot (a series of marks on the pavements). Penn was also famous for his printing, often utilising platinum/palladium techniques to give a soft but intensely detailed finish.

Whatever you think of the ethics of his photography there is no doubt that he produced an astounding and varied body of work. Penn’s vision for his project that is shown in Worlds in a Small Room was ‘These remarkable strangers would come to me and place themselves in front of my camera, and in this clear north sky light I would make records of their physical presence. The pictures would survive us both and at least to that extent something of their already dissolving cultures would be preserved forever.’ (McLaughlin, 2013). This has come to pass and is a remarkable epitaph to a man who worked at his passion almost until he died.


Goldberg, V. (1991). ART; Irving Penn Is Difficult. “Can’t You Tell?” The New York Times. [online] 24 Nov. Available at: [Accessed 30 Oct. 2019].

Kozloff, M. (2007). The Theatre of the face : Portrait Photography Since 1900. London: Phaidon.

McLaughlin, T. (2013). Worlds in a Small Room. [online] Image on Paper. Available at: [Accessed 29 Oct. 2019].

Smart, A. and Jones, R. (2019). How Irving Penn ‘changed the way people saw the world.’ [online] Available at: [Accessed 30 Oct. 2019].









Exercise 2.3 – Same model, different background

The Brief: Select a subject for a series of portraits, varying the background. The one consistent image must be the subject, who may be a family member, a colleague or a willing participant who is known or previously unknown to you.

I spent time thinking about the portraiture of the aware subject and summarised my thoughts in Project 2 – The aware. The important issues here were that the person was aware of what I was doing (unlike in most street photography), and that I needed to have (or build up) a relationship with the subject. However, unlike Germain, I did not have years to do the project.

 I decided to use a subject who I have known for several years, Martin. Martin used to be a teacher, but his real interest is gardening and about 15 years ago he decided to retire from teaching, buy a cottage in the country and build a guest house in the grounds, surrounding both his cottage and the guest house with a partially wild garden and a small lake.  His idea is to make it a peaceful retreat for the exhausted in mind and body, and there is only minimal connection with the world.

Martin agreed to be a subject and then allowed me to follow him around for several days while he was doing his general work in the garden, building a new shed and managing the needs of the guest area.  This was made easier as I do know him reasonably well, and after a while he stopped trying to ‘pose’ for me and just got on with things.  The main difficulty was trying to discourage him from talking to me constantly. We discussed whether the images should be of him looking at me (a returned gaze) or of him concentrating on his work. He was more comfortable with the idea of pictures where he was not looking at me directly and this took away his tendency to put on a ‘say cheese’ smile.

I also took a selection of images of his wife, Sharon, as I initially wondered about using her as the main subject together with images of the surroundings and details of the garden. In a larger piece of work, it would be interesting to set these three sections together to tell more of the story of their lives.

When I looked at the images of Martin I divided them up into 3 sections:

  1. Portrait format images where he was doing the work
  2. Landscape format images where he was doing the work
  3. Images where he was just relaxing, sitting or standing

After some thought I decided that the images of him working told his story better than the ones of him standing still. The portrait images seemed to work better than the landscape ones as they showed more of the background. I then divided the images further into two groups, a group that showed him full body (or nearly) and a second group of close-up images. I initially preferred the close-up images but on thinking decided that the ones that showed more of the background told more about what I was wanting to show although there were some images in both groups that told more about the person.

I then looked at both sets in colour and in black and white, although I actually like the black and white images because this story is about Martin in his world – where colour is very important to him, the colour images seemed more appropriate and helped identify that it is a garden and a small cottage.

I sent some of the pictures to Martin and Sharon and was delighted with the response ‘They are such lovely images of our life here – I love the collection of Martin because he looks happy and comfortable’. The fact he was comfortable was very important as a response as, although he agreed to the photographs being taken, he was initially very worried about the outcome.

Final Images:

Waterhouse (1 of 1)-5

Waterhouse (2 of 5)

Waterhouse (1 of 5)

Waterhouse (4 of 5)

Waterhouse (1 of 1)


Contact Sheets:


Martin in monochrome.jpg

Project 2 – The aware

With the exception of candid street photography all images of people involve some degree of awareness on the part of the subject. However, the degree of involvement does vary. It can be divided into 3 main types:

  1. The subject is having their portrait taken on one occasion either as:
    1. A deliberate choice on the part of the subject such as a formal portrait
    2. A choice on the part of the photographer such as a requested photograph of a stranger in the street. Examples of these are the June Street series by Daniel Meadows and the work done by Tom Wood see:  Project 1 – The unaware – 2 where he became the Photie Man.
  2. An ongoing portrait series of a person or a group of people either taken over several days or even years where the subject, although known to the photographer, is not emotionally involved. An example is the series in the face of silence (Agou, 2011) by Christophe Agou.
  3. An ongoing series of portraits of someone who is well known to the photographer such as family or a close friend. Examples here are Mother (Graham, 2019) by Paul Graham and Big Brother (Quail, 2018) by Louis Quail and the photographs of his wife Eleanor by Harry Callahan.

Another example of type 3 is Looking for Alice by Siân Davey in which she tells the story of the life of her daughter, Alice, who was born with Down’s Syndrome and the impact this has on the family’s life. In the foreword she says ‘the process of photographing this work has helped me shine a light on why I struggled to love Alice, which was essentially fear and uncertainty …. she is now in the middle of everything that we do as a family and is loved unconditionally’ (Davey, 2015).  Davey went on to produce a book of images about her older daughter, Martha, at her request (Davey, 2019). She talks at length about her life and motivation for taking these images in a podcast  A Small Voice – Siân Davey.

These categories can become blurred, especially the latter two, when a series continues over several years. This is very noticeable in the work for every minute you are angry you lose sixty seconds of happiness (Germain and Snelling, 2014) by Julian Germain, where he started off with an unknown subject Mr Snelling, who he got to know very well over several years, with the images becoming more intimate over time. Another example of the blurring between a subject and a friend occurs in Nina Berman’s book An Autobiography of Miss Wish (Berman and Stevens, 2017) in which she initially meets a stranger, a drug addict and a prostitute on the street and over many years develops a friendship that includes housing her for a time and being her sponsor. The final book is a collaboration between Berman and Miss Wish (Kimberly Stevens) and includes both photographs, copies of her medical documentation and drawings done by Stevens.

The skills needed for all portraits of aware subjects include (in no particular order):

  • The ability to make a connection and read the person and therefore show their feelings
  • Real engagement to build trust – possibly very rapidly in a one-off shoot
  • The need to keep separate your emotion and the subjects (they may be the same – or very different) – and the photo will depend on how you interpret them
  • Patience
  • The ability to think about the whole image, not just the person. Both the content and the framing are important.
  • The need to choose between either being an observer (neutral) or a participant (a director) – both can work well but probably not in the same image
  • Consider lighting – inside or outside, natural or flash, soft or hard – what will show what you need?
  • Get permission which may be explicit (in writing) or implicit (the person sees you pointing the camera at them and agrees by not turning away)

A useful reference book which discusses these points is on the Portrait and the Moment by Mary Ellen Mark (Mark, 2015).


Agou, C. (2011). In the face of silence. Stockport: Dewi Lewis.

Berman, N. and Stevens, K. (2017). An Autobiography of Miss Wish. Heidelberg: Kehrer.

Davey, S. (2015). Looking for Alice. Great Britain: Trolley Ltd.

Davey, S. (2019). Martha. Hertfordshire: Trolleybooks.

Davey, S. and Smith, B. (2017). Siân Davey. [online] A Small Voice. Available at: [Accessed 22 Oct. 2019].

Germain, J. and Snelling, C. (2014). For every minute you are angry you lose sixty seconds of happiness: portrait of an elderly gentleman. London: Mack.

Graham, P. (2019). Mother. S.L.: Mack.

Mark, M.E. (2015). on the portrait and the moment. New York Aperture.

Quail, L. (2018). Big Brother. Stockport: Dewi Lewis Publishing.




Daniel Meadows

Daniel Meadows is a British photographer, a contemporary and friend of Martin Parr, who taught and worked in collaboration with him. He describes himself on his website as ‘I am a Documentarist, I have spent a lifetime recording British society, challenging the status quo by working in a collaborative way to capture extraordinary aspects of ordinary life, principally through photography but also with audio recordings and short movies’ (Meadows, 2019) and says his story is about the England he comes from. An archive of all his work to March 2018 is held in the Boddleian Library in Oxford and has been used to study how UK photographers can make their work and studies publicly available.

The June Street series was made in collaboration with Martin Parr in 1973, as series of pictures of the residents of houses in June Street, Salford, that were awaiting demolition. They took photographs of families in their sitting rooms, all looking at him, seated in similar positions. The project was taken up by the BBC and the verbal stories and comments of the people were added. A short Vimeo talk, Daniel Meadows – June Street by Meadows explains how he went back to see some of the residents of June Street in 1996 and how the photographs brought back memories of the past. He also talks about the comments of some bloggers on an exhibition in 2011 talking about how his photographs of June Street brought back personal memories of their own childhoods and says ‘ ..that something so rooted in a specific past can speak so powerfully in an ever-changing present and with such a range of meaning is, I think, magical’ (Meadows, 2014).

In the introduction to his recent book, Now and Then, England 1970-2015 Meadows says ‘My rule of thumb when doing documentary work is to try and treat people as individuals, not types’ (Meadows 2019). This is completely opposite to the rule of typology that Sander used and leads to a very different kind of image. He quotes Karl Ove Knausgaard who says ‘; Should our culture not …. establish difference, which is the stuff of all worth in which value resides and from which it is released’ (Knausgaard, 2018). The book starts from his very early work as a student when he set up a free photo-studio in a disused room in Graeme Street. Even these early images show the individual nature of the people he took, the cheekiness of the children and the serious adults. He moved on to travelling with a bus, still taking free pictures of anyone who wanted their picture taken, single people, pairs and groups – building up an early version of a portrait of England. He made contact with some of the people photographed in both these projects many years later and took their stories and re-photographed them – hence Now and Then. It makes fascinating reading. Among other things, in 1975 he was photographer-in -residence for the Borough of Pendle, where he took images of what was then the industrial heartland of England, the people, the machines and the scenery. All in black and white – colour was generally too expensive then. The photographs in Now and Then are accompanied by the stories of the people, not (definitely not) politically correct – but extremely funny. He has always made audio recordings to go with the images – to extend the story.


Knausgaard, K.O. (2018). My Struggle. London: Harvill Secker, p.p.626.

Meadows, D. (2014). Photobus ~ Daniel Meadows. [online] Available at: [Accessed 17 Oct. 2019].

Meadows, D. (2019a). June Street, Salford by Daniel Meadows. My photography stories #4. [online] Vimeo. Available at: [Accessed 17 Oct. 2019].

Meadows, D. (2019b). Now and Then: England 1970-2015. Oxford: Bodleian Library.




Louis Quail

Louis Quail is described as a documentary photographer, but that tends to imply a photographer who looks at something from the outside with an analytical voice. Some of his earlier projects such as Desk Job in which he explores office life across the continents, showing the similarities of how the workers in a large office exist and how there is a common culture of the office worker versus the big bosses can be described in this fashion.

However, his latest project Big Brother is deeply personal. It tells the story of his brother’s struggle with schizophrenia and the ongoing difficulties this causes. It shows the difficult side of having a severe mental illness, and how negotiating the pitfalls of state, welfare and hospital treatment is fraught with anxiety both for the person and his relatives – but it also tells an ongoing love story about Justin and his long time girlfriend Jackie. The book is both fascinating and terrifying. I was constantly torn between laughing and weeping while reading and seeing Justins story.  The book contains photographs taken over 7 years interspersed with text telling the story and drawings and pieces of writing by Justin. It includes a small booklet of paintings and poems by Justin which make it clear that however damaged Justin is by his schizophrenia he is also a very creative person. One of these poems begins:

Boxed in clever on a psychiatric ward

It’s no wonder I am bored.

The fatigue sets in

The eternal light won’t go off

Before its off.  (Quail and Quail, 2018).

© Justin Quail

Quail says on his website ‘This book did not set out to be a political polemic; rather, my intention was to fight stigma and share Justin’s story so we can understand, empathize and celebrate Justin’s individuality. However, inevitably by studying the problems affecting my brother, the work speaks of and draws attention to the crisis in mental health care, raising important questions about how we look after our most vulnerable citizens’ (Quail, 2019).

The book is worth a long look – for the story, the images and the increased understanding of a person’s difficult world. For this story the long-term engagement was essential to avoid a superficial glance and to give the meaning to the story. It would have been simple to just show the ‘bad bits’ but Quail succeeds in showing both these and the joy that even a difficult life can encompass.


Quail, L. (2019). Big Brother – Introduction – Louis Quail Photography. [online] Louis Quail Photography. Available at: [Accessed 17 Oct. 2019].

Quail, L. and Quail, J. (2018). Big brother. Stockport: Dewi Lewis Publishing.

Julian Germain

Julian Germain (born 1962) is a British photographer who often combines his own images with archival images to look at the effects of change in society. He works in Britain and abroad, especially Brazil, where he gave cameras to the street children and collected their images – showing the lives of marginalised people. In For every minute you are angry you lose sixty seconds of happiness, which was originally shown at the Baltic gallery, accompanied by a book (Germain and Snelling, 2005), he made a series of photographs taken over 8 years of an elderly gentleman called Charles Snelling which he then published along with pages from Snelling’s own photo album. Germain says ‘He showed me that the most important things in life cost nothing at all. He was my antidote to modern living’ (Germain, 2005). The images are a straightforward story telling that combines photographs of Snelling in his house, on the beach and out walking with images of items that he owns, such as an old kettle steaming on the hob. The work acts as an ‘extended portrait’ – a story of the later part of someone’s life where the photographer has engaged over considerable time – thus giving a richer view than a flying visit could give. This is an excellent example of the additional information time spent on a project gives you, and I find it fascinating.

Germain mostly works by producing books. He says ‘A book is such an excellent way to really look at a body of work over a long period of time. Of all the visual arts the book is suited to photography. Of course, much of my work is not about the single image, my pictures work on each other, placed as they are in sequences and a book is the perfect framework for that. A photo book is a work of art in its own right…’ (Skerrett and Germain, 2010).


Germain, J. (2005). Julian Germain “For every minute you are angry you lose sixty seconds of happiness” project. [online] Available at: [Accessed 16 Oct. 2019].

Germain, J. and Snelling, C. (2005). For every minute you are angry you lose sixty seconds of happiness: portrait of an elderly gentleman. London: Mack.

Skerrett, P. and Germain, J. (2010). INTERVIEW: “In Conversation with Julian Germain” (2005) – AMERICAN SUBURB X. [online] Available at: [Accessed 16 Oct. 2019].

Harry Callahan

Harry Callahan (1912 – 1999) was an American photographer based in Chicago. He taught at the Chicago Institute of Design and then at the Rhode Island School of Design. He took many street photographs with a heavy contrast of black and white. However, he also took images of his wife and daughter, often set in the distance against the city. This contrasted with other very simple images of trees against the sky, patterns in the sand. He also combined many images to make multiple exposure prints – although it is not clear whether this was done by multiple in-camera exposures or by overlaying prints. He shot thousands of pictures but produced very few finished prints. He was an experimental photographer, trying out a range of possibilities for the subjects he was interested in. He is reported as saying ‘I guess I’ve shot about 40,000 negatives and of these I have about 800 pictures I like” (, 2019). He also said, “The difference between the casual impression and the intensified image is about as great as that separating the average business letter from a poem. If you choose your subject selectively — intuitively — the camera can write poetry.” (Cassidy,2006).

© estate of Harry Callahan – Eleanor

References: (2019). Harry Callahan. [online] Available at: [Accessed 16 Oct. 2019].

Cassidy, V.M. (2006). Harry Callahan: The Photographer at Work – Photographs by Harry Callahan | LensCulture. [online] LensCulture. Available at: