Category Archives: Notes from discussions and hangouts

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.

Write where you are

I attended a zoom discussion led by Suzannah Evans. I chose to attend this zoom because of the increasing amount of writing that is required in the photography course and my awareness that I have not done any formal learning on writing since school (a long time ago). She started by making some general comments about writing such as thinking about what we write, and, more importantly, why we write. This zoom focused on writing about place. She gave us three exercises:

  1. Writing about a place you have been to regularly during lockdown. I chose to write about the walk out the end of my street, the same one I made images of for exercise 5.3 about a local journey. I will add this as an appendix to that exercise.
  2. Thinking about some unusual place names and writing about those. I picked Arakan, which was both the name of the house I lived in as a child and also where my father served in WWII
  3. A short piece that is very place specific. I wrote about the harbour where I lived as a child.

We also discussed poetry and how it differed from general writing, a more considered use of words leading to the production of a feeling. Also discussed avoiding the need to impress, to be pretentious and look clever rather than just using the words that are required.

I found the zoom helpful. It has made me think more about how I say things, and why I say them.

My final piece was:

Pagham harbour

Day 5 - Aug 2007030-1

No boats, no water

Sand, mud,

Reeds and grass

Lapwings calling, peewit, peewit.

IAP to Level 2 Discussion Meeting

The IAP group had a very useful crossover meeting with people who had done some level 2 courses to discuss the options in more detail than is easily available.

Present were:

  • Zoe, Iain, Caroline, Julia and Michael from IAP
  • Lynda W., Lynda K., Andrew, and Simon from level 2 and 3

We discussed all the options available in some detail. Everybody seemed to have enjoyed the ones they had done. Simon was particularly enthusiastic about DIC! Everybody said to be aware that Level 2 involved more research and reading and generally less practical work and it was easy to go down the ‘rabbit hole’ of research (a problem I have at the best of times).  There is opportunities in all the courses to investigate things you are specifically interested in, such as archival work, abstracts, landscapes and people. There is a lot of theory involved in all of them.

Everybody said that the courses are not defined by the titles and you can ‘bend’ them to fit your particular interests.

Simon was very clear that he felt DIC was essential as it had completely changed how he looked at photography and had allowed him to become more adventurous and think more about why you take photos and what they mean. What is truth in photography? He commented that he had ended up using all sorts of media, including collage, to extend his work. He had thought it would be very 3rd person based – but it actually became very personal. Certainly not all photoshop.

Lynda W. Re Landscape, noted that the time scale had really allowed her to extend her work and think about things in more depth, crystallised her thinking, experimented with abstract

Lynda K. Reminded us not to see the genre names as boxes and pointed out that you might completely change what you were doing part way through. Landscape does not have to be outside, might be on a tabletop, or archival. Documentary is also not strictly reportage – but is being rewritten at present. Documentary needs a lot of research (but so do they all).

Andrew commented that SAO was initially very photo intensive and might (but could be done) be difficult at the present – but there is a lot of opportunities within it to meet with people and have discussions about their lives.

The big differences between Levels 1 and 2:

  • More time
  • More freedom
  • More academic work

Noted – none of us are teenagers (!) – therefore have more life experiences to help ground the work and the essays. The essays can be difficult to keep to the limits – so title and subtitle to narrow down exactly what you are talking about. Possibly write the introduction last when you know what. You want to say.

It is useful to have a side-project to work on as otherwise you might not actually do a lot of photography!

Lynda K. – gave 2 useful references

Thanks to all the people for sharing their time.

IAP group meeting – 04/07/20


Zoe, Caroline, Debra, Julia, Ben and Michael, apologies from Mark.

We started by welcoming Michael who is based in Cambridge and has just sent in A4 and plans to go for assessment in November.

There was some discussion about tutors and their role. We would all like more input, although we are aware that they are only paid for specific work around doing a report on the assignments. Everybody prefers face to face (well, on-line) reports rather than just a written feedback as it allows a fuller discussion about the pluses and minuses of the work together with what can be improved (and possibly how). We noted the very useful zooms from Andrea Norrington (links available on IAP Padlet and next one on 15th July) and also the library webinars (also see IAP Padlet). We all also found the recent zooms from Anna Fox and Susan Bright inspiring. I reminded people about the Scottish Group – we are having a zoom meeting on 07/07 at 1900 as we have missed our usual meeting due to lockdown.


Zoe – just sent in A4. Work on family memories using archive photos. Caroline and Julia were both positive about it although somewhat conflicting views – Caroline liked the chronological theme, Julia wondered if it would be better random! This led onto a long discussion about family work generally, and the making of family trees. We discussed that many of us have boxes of family photo in attics or garages, what will happen to all the memory photos when they are all taken digitally and not printed? Will they just disappear? Should we make summary photo albums for our descendants?

Caroline – just sent in A5 (!). Fascinating work on memories and the loss of a previous home (Dubai). She noted that she had wanted the work to be more about the emotions of the place rather than specific images. I (Zoe) found the research fascinating especially the photographers she used and will go back to them in more detail. The video was a new move for me – worth investigating further. She had also made a 3D Art Gallery to show all her work. This gave a great overview of the course – but some of the posted videos were glitchy.

Ben – has mainly been working on his CN assessment. He found the digital assessment worked well for him although he did have to go back over his blog posts and rewrite some for the learning outcomes. He told us about the assessment

  • Work related to the learning outcomes with 2 pieces of work to demonstrate each, these can include things that did not go so well and how you improved them.
  • 6 – 12 creative pieces
  • Tutor reports
  • An artist’s statement

This is a significant change in that we are responsible for making the decisions about what we think is good! And also working out whether or not we have met the learning aims and how to demonstrate that.

Ben – sent in A1 – which is his work based on the photos he took at the Glasgow City Mission. Do note, taking pictures of strangers is Ben’s job – so unlike the rest of us he did not struggle with that. We discussed a number of strategies we had used

  • Bribing with cake
  • A dog making the initial choice of person
  • Using Facebook groups to link with local people
  • Putting notes through doors

Debra – has now submitted A1 and got immediate feedback. She used the Facebook page for her contacts and took people on their doorstep using a standard set up of lens and tripod. She found talking to the people she met the most interesting thing. She is planning to continue the Covid 19 theme throughout her IAP work. Of note, it may change as lockdown eases/lifts – but these will still be a before/during/after theme available.

Michael – submitted A4 (canals and newspaper headlines). It expressed what he feels about the present situation with Brexit. Is now working of A5. Thinking about doing work related to his family and words they use to describe themselves

Julia submitted A4 and working on A5. She lives in North Norfolk where her husband has strong roots. She has been listening to a poet she knows (Kevin Crossley Holland) and is thinking about a mixed media presentation, including photographs (possibly overpainted with watercolours) and some video work. She noted that she herself is rootless – due to her family history of refugees. That took us back around to the idea of roots and family and a photographic response to that.

Most of this group are nearly at the point where we will need to choose our Level 2 modules and we are all conflicted

  • Julia – possibly moving image and landscape
  • Caroline – possibly landscape and self and other – but interested in all
  • Zoe possibly self and other and documentary or DIC
  • Michael – documentary and landscape
  • Ben – movie and documentary

We all agreed that it would be useful to have more info on all the courses so thought we would set up a specific zoom meeting to discuss them further and hopefully invite people ho were further along to talk about the pros and cons. We came up with some possible names and Caroline will try to arrange.


  • Next general meeting for 01/08/20
  • Future planning meeting hopefully – 18/07/20

Study visit – London’s Hottest Postcode

I attended the study visit (or possibly better described as the exhibition opening) of Hazel Bingham’s work on buildings and their environment. Before the discussion we were given the opportunity to look at the images on a virtual exhibition site:

Hazel has also set up a Padlet  with a huge amount of extra information about the background of the project:

 We started with a brief discussion of who was there and our work then the tutor -Andrew Conroy – talked about his interest in making connections between the micro and the macro to tell you about the politics of everyday life. He briefly described Hazel’s work as the development of a commercial space, with a large amount of surveillance and unusual use of nature.

Hazel then showed the images as a slideshow with a brief additional description of the images. Later on in the talk she commented that these images were meant to be seen large (I think, although I didn’t write it down, A1). This is a very different scale to looking at it on an tablet (as I did) or at best a computer screen (as I had previously done when looking at the virtual exhibition).  Although we got the gist of the images – I do wonder what it would have been like looking at them full scale – the detail would be much more compelling.

Hazel talked briefly about how she started from the concept of social planning and urban regeneration. But what does this actually mean? The people that move in are those that the planners want (because these are the only people that can afford to) and all (most) of the original inhabitants are moved out. So where do they go? In theory there is some ‘social housing’ included, but very little. There is little resource in the development for teenagers. The group discussed this problem at length including:

  • How much do developers play the system?
  • How much are plans changed when the building starts?
  • How real is the idea of a ‘trickle down’ effect of money and property?
  • Need to remember that these types of developments are commercial ventures – therefore money is crucial!
  • In reality who lives there?
  • How much is it policed? – guards, surveillance etc
  • Will the need/desire for these sorts of communities change with the effect of the pandemic? Many of the units are used by foreign students – will they return? Or businesses – what will be the effect of home working?

Throughout the images Hazel had made significant use of the words that were seen in the area, sometimes they changed over time. They also acted as a controlling mechanism. Go there. Do that.

We also discussed the fact that external spaces in this area are no longer public – they have become privatised. Although, in reality, the rich have always had more access to outside space than the poor (example the New Town in Edinburgh with the locked gardens versus the tenements, or the King’s Forests  – where if you went without permission it was potentially a hanging offence). We also discussed how the use of ‘nature’ – or at least growing areas was used to make a building attractive to buyers. But the other side of that coin is that it can also be used to cover up social problems and avoid questions about the use of an area.

Hazel described how she had chosen this area as a BOW for practical reasons. Building where she lives is slow. In London things happen fast – so within a manageable time scale. She did not ask for permission to take pictures – but this would probably have been different if she was there with a film crew, or even seen as ‘lingering’ (or do I mean loitering?).

Hazel gave useful advice when thinking about long term work:

  • Network (other people may have useful resources or helpful ideas
  • Research
  • Think about what you really want to do (you may be spending a lot of time on it)
  • Think about costing, books will rarely break even, publishers typically want more images than OCA does.

This was an important study group, both for the images that Hazel showed and the extended conversation around them and the problems you might encounter. It was clear that as a group most of the people there were socially aware and concerned about the social environment and use of space.  The images themselves were fascinating. I would have loved to have seen them in a larger format and close up to enable detailed examination – however we might have lost out on the extensive conversation they provoked.

With thanks to Hazel and Andrew for this resource and the learning it provided.