Category Archives: Project 2 – Memories and speech

Exercise 4.5 – My Mother’s Memories

Find words that have been written or spoken by someone else. You can gather these words from a variety of means – interviews, journals, archives, eavesdropping. Your subject may be a friend, stranger, alive or dead. Select your five favourite examples and create five images that do justice to the essence of those words.

 I decided to use sentences from recordings we took of my mother describing her life not long before she died. She had never been forthcoming with information – so to get her to agree to allow us to tape her was a real achievement. We ended up with about 3 hours of story over 8 tapes. The first piece of work was to put these in order and transcribe them. I tried to use various types of software, but her voice is soft, and she has a slight accent, so this was not successful. Hand transcribing it was! Much of what she said was repetitive and didn’t follow any particular order, so I went though the transcription and found 5 sentences that came at specific points of her life – or told and important piece of her story.

I then thought about ways to add images. I didn’t want to be too didactic or illustrative but wanted to show images that had some link. I was helped by the earlier research I had done on text particularly David Favrod’s work where he uses the memories of his Japanese grandparents (see David Favrod) and also Aaron Schuman’s Slant (Schuman, 2019) where he uses elliptical pictures to illustrate the words he has collected (see Aaron Schuman – Slant). I have recently read Geoffrey Batchen’s Forget Me Not (Batchen, 2006) which talks about the use of portraits as memory/remembrance aides (seeGeoffrey Batchen – Forget Me Not). Although these are not portraits they act in a similar fashion.

I was limited in the images I could take because of the present lockdown (still ongoing in Scotland) so used images that were all taken locally, which is a long was from where she lived in America and the Germany.

I have decided to present the images in 2 ways:

  • An old-fashioned photograph album of the type she owned, with the images paired each sentence – finishing with a poem by Ursula Le Guin – Leaves from So Far So Good (Le Guin, 2018)
  • Either a video or a PowerPoint with her words cut out from the tape and running at the same time as the images.

The photograph album was a fairly simple exercise.

  • I used an old album that I had acquired at an antique fair.
  • The words were printed in a script text that is fairly similar to the very elaborate writing my mother always used. I am slightly concerned about the legibility of it – so this is something I need to think about.
  • The images were all home printed.
  • The most difficult thing has been photographing the album for presentation. I have tried several techniques with limited success as the album does not want to stay open.
  • To show the images and words more clearly, I have also saved them as single images – as they would be seen in the album – but on one page instead of two.

Images of album:



Back-up images (for clarity):

MotherfirstSchool daysFarminternedDraftLeavesFor the video I was helped by my son – who is far more technically minded than I am.

  • I found the specific words on the tapes and cut them out
  • They were then matched with the images
  • I thought about using a background music – a piano piece that she liked – but it made the words too unclear – although this is something that needs to be considered further.
  • The video needed an end point, so I recorded part of a different poem by Ursula Le Guin – Ancestry and added in an image of the sun though the leaves.

Both the album and the video only tell a very small portion of her life, and only use 5 of the multitude of possible audio clips (to match the 5 sentences called for in this exercise) – I think it would be worth extending, and possibly using a variety of images – some taken by me, and some from her very extensive archives. This is definitely a long-term project.

Learning points:

  • It is difficult to pick out individual sentences that make sense and tell a story from a long audio history
  • Matching images and words is a skill that needs practiced
  • Photography of an album is tricky – and I still haven’t got it quite right
  • How to use movie software
  • That movie software is widescreen – and all my images are 4:3
  • How to upload to You-tube
  • How to upload to Vimeo

 Link for videos ( You-tube and Vimeo):


Contact sheets of possible images:



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

Le Guin, U. K. (2018) So far so good: final poems, 2014-2018. Port Townsend, Washington: Copper Canyon Press.

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

Anna Fox

Anna Fox is a British photographer and a professor of photography at UCA, Farnham. She recently gave a talk on zoom to the OCA students. She has published several books including My Mother’s Cupboards and My Father’s Words (Fox, 1999). This is a small book that uses text to explain pictures – or pictures to illustrate text. They both have equal value. The text consists of words, aggressive, angry, violent, spoken by her father about the women in their family, more specifically her mother and the images are very quiet, simple images of the contents of the cupboards in the house. Sometime the two fit together – such as the words ‘She’s bloody rattling again’ set against a cupboard of glasses, other times less so. In a recent talk given by Fox to the OCA students she said that she collected the words surreptitiously, under the table – but simply went around the house taking the pictures. She did not attempt to illustrate the words but matched them together when they were all collected. She described the book as not simply about her mother and father but about the effect of couples living together in a patriarchal society and noted that whenever it is shown other people come out with similar stories about their families.

In another book Work Stations (Fox, 1988) Fox took a series of photographs of people in offices in London which are presented along with a line of text that she gathered from magazines and newspapers. She used the same technique in Basingstoke 1985-68 (Fox, s.d.), where the apparently banal images of Basingstoke life are matched with a series of texts culled from local papers. In both of these works sometimes the text matches the image (although with a slightly sideways match) in other the text seems to almost contradict the information in the photograph. In the same talk she said that she simply collected the texts but did not try and illustrate them – as, for her, that did not work. Fox is clear that image and texts when used in a piece of work should be seen as both parts of the work, not simply an image + a caption.  She used the work of Sophie Calle to illustrate this – where the words are crucial to the understanding and are often shown as more important (or at least more dominant) than the pictures. In another work Cockroach Diary (Fox, 2000) she made two separate books, one the diary – a copy of the diary she made which told the story of what was happening in a group of ‘dysfunctional’ people living together, and one a book of images of cockroaches – often scarcely visible (as they move so fast) and presented them together. In an exhibition of the work the pictures were shown on the walls, and the diary shown under them so you could read it all.  

In all of these works the text is important. Equal not subordinate. It needs careful thought from the very beginning of the project, it may actually precede the images and inspire them. It is not added as an afterthought, that will not work.

 In the lengthy and fascinating talk, she made several important points which I have attempted to summarise:

  • Women in photography have not often been represented enough which she and a group of other people are trying to balance in Fast Forward, which holds conferences, acts as a research project and has an online journal (Fast Forward: Women in Photography, s.d.) .
  • Women are not good at networking – possibly because focused on struggle to get seen and not enough energy left, men are better at this
  • She is inspired by fiction – fills the mind with ideas, which then become embedded and inform your work
  • Photography resembles reality – but it’s not real. Time and memory are important Are these things captured, recorded or posed in time?
  • Does it matter if the photo is ‘real’ or fictional – no but it does matter that you are honest about it if asked. Some authors embed found images in their work to make the story appear more real. Other photographers construct images from the ground up to tell a fictional story that may be more real than an actual image ever could be (Crewdson, Wells, possibly Capa).
  • All your work has a degree of fiction because you choose what to include and what to crop out – the story says as much about you as anything else.
  • She said the photographs that inspire her are the ones that surprise her.
  • You have to make yourself a good enough photographer to make the story the right way for the subjects – gives the people a voice. You need to know why you take them and use them – context is everything.

More of her work can be seen on her website:


Fast Forward: Women in Photography (s.d.) At: (Accessed  08/06/2020).

Fox (s.d.) Basingstoke 1985 – 86 – Anna Fox. At: (Accessed 08/06/2020).

Fox, A. (1988) Work Stations: office life in London. London: Camerawork.

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.

Sharon Boothroyd/Young

Sharon Boothroyd is a feminist photographic artist from London.  She has done several series of work that use a combination of words and images. The words are not always explicit or shown but inform the photography.

If you get married again, will you still love me?  – is based on the questions asked by children of their absent/separated fathers. The images are stylised and manufactured, not taken of the actual families – however this allows her to be explicit with the emotions involved without risking harm to the original children. They show the common and frequent problems that occur in these situations. The images (at least on her website) are not titled, and the question/conversation is not shown but it is obvious that these children, ranging in age from babies to teenagers are unhappy. Some are sulking, some looking away. In spite of being staged it gives an intimate and real view into the lives of many children.

They all say please is a series of images based on prayers that Boothroyd found in online prayer forums. In this case the images are accompanied by a shortened version of the prayer that sparked the image. In many images people are shown, alone and lonely. In others there is an empty space that should be filled with happy people, for instance, an empty cinema with a blank red screen accompanies the words Please do not let a romance grow between them.  Even the bright and cheerful images, when read alongside the words become unbearably sad. It makes me wonder whether people ever pray (or at least post prayers) when they are happy. I had a quick look and the overwhelming theme seemed to be asking for healing, for oneself, for others or for the world. Not unexpected in the present time.

In Disrupted Vision Boothroyd again uses words. Here she took photos of strangers with a Polaroid camera and asked the people to comment on them. The responses are written on the Polaroid, I think by Boothroyd herself.  This has the effect of making the image ambiguous, who’s viewpoint should we believe? The photographer or the subject?

The Subtext of a Dream combines images, water at its most  beautiful, simple and enigmatic (at least the ones I have seen) with words reappropriated from stories by a  variety of authors to make a fantasy story about a fictional woman, Madame Beaumaris. It is a story about someone who may or may not be having real events happening to her. Or are they fantastic hysterical imaginings? They are certainly erotic. In an interview she says ‘it’s simply human nature to tell stories (from an Ursula Le Guin essay). To understand ourselves and our histories. I think that’s why I do it too – to seek understanding’ (Paterson, 2018).

I found her work fascinating and the use she makes of text to inform her images makes me want to do the same. The words are not always there – but they have clearly influenced the carefully considered images. I wish I could see more of them. I wish I could read the whole of The Subtext of a Dream.

To see her images, check her website:


Paterson (2018) Artists at the RCA: Meet Sharon Boothroyd. At: (Accessed 29/05/2020).

David Favrod

David Favrod is a Swiss-Japanese artist that now lives in Spain. A combination of cultures that has shaped his photographic practice. He uses a mixture of styles; photography, drawing and video. Much of his work is influenced by manga/anime. He says, ‘I don’t restrain myself with only photography……my question is just “How can I tell this story?” …. I need to push the boundaries to find the right/best way for what I want to show/express’. He also notes that ‘memories are fictions …  easily malleable (Newman, 2015).

Hikari (meaning light in Japanese) is a work based on memory – but not his own, but that of his Japanese grandparents, told to him on one occasion – so a memory of memories told. It is overlaid with his own feelings of growing up as a mixed-race child. In an interview with Sharon Boothroyd (Boothroyd, 2014) he explains his working process (thinking of the idea, drawing sketches, looking at the balance of different images then constructing them).  He also uses sound – or the visual representation of sound – added to the images. He does not explain his images in detail and hopes that each viewer will bring their own memories to them. For Hikari he tells a story that is part fact, part fiction using found images and objects collaged together with drawings and photographs leading to ambiguous images re-creating fragments that might be memories or dreams.

In another series Gaijin (Japanese for foreigner) he blends Japanese symbols with portraits and Swiss mountains. This project was made in response to his feeling of rejection having been declined dual Japanese nationality.

When looking at his work online I found it difficult to differentiate what comes from which series. They are often shown together and have a similar feel, Favrod himself notes that his series are often linked, and he flows from making one into making the next – which probably explains my dilemma. His website  (Favrod, s.d.) shows many of his images but, even there, they are just titled and dated, not separated out. Many of the images are beautiful low key scenes such as Une averse, an image of a snow covered mountain (it could be in Japan or Switzerland) part covered with diagonal black and white stripes. Others clearly reference Japan – Pour Sadako – a river with coloured paper cranes instead of reeds and leaves. Did he make them and position them before taking the image or is it a collage? Either way it is evocative. Some are portraits – La pluie noire –shows a girl covered with mud and surrounded by Japanese characters. Is this referencing the bombing in Japan? Is it a more personal memory? or both? It is ineffably sad.

Une averse – © David Favrod
Pour Sadako – © David Favrod
Pluie noire © David Favrod


Boothroyd, Sharon, S. (2014) David Favrod. At: (Accessed 28/05/2020).

Favrod, D. (s.d.) DAVID FAVROD. At: (Accessed 28/05/2020).

Newman, C. (2015) Looking Back and Forward Interviews #6: David Favrod. At: (Accessed 28/05/2020).