Category Archives: Photographers

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.

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).

Daniel Meadows – Digital Stories

I have looked at Daniel Meadows work before – see Daniel Meadows – however had not come across his digital stories. Meadows has produced three short videos based on pictures from his family albums which he describes as ‘First-person scripted stories about the families I come from. Pictures and voice-over, told with feeling’ (Meadows, s.d.). In each he shows images with voice over to tell the story. They are short, funny, and engaging.

Polyfoto uses polyfotos (48 small square images in sepia) of his mother and father, to enable him to tell how his parents met, and his mother’s illness.  Scissors was made as a training video to show what could be done with pictures, transitions, and crossovers. The voiceover is accompanied by subtitles. The story leaves you wondering what happened. Young Shavers tells about his grandfather. The words of Meadows are played against a background of someone singing. The images bounce in and out.  New (or at least newer) images of Meadows as a child overlaid on images from his grandmother’s photo albums of her time in India in the Raj.

All three videos use different techniques for using archival family images to tell a short story.  I wish I had seen them before I made one. However, they will be useful for further exploration of video making and for adding in the personalising beginning and end of mine.


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

Catherine Panebianco

Courtesy of the artist – from the series No Memory is Ever Alone – © Catherine Panebianco

Catherine Panebianco is a visual artist who uses her images to show memories and dreams. Connecting the present and the past. Looking at memory and grief. Searching for herself.

Catherine Panebianco’s latest series No Memory Is Ever Alone consists of reusing a series of slides taken by her father and putting them against her current environment to ‘create …not only a connection between his life and mine, but a trail of memories’ (Panebianco, s.d.). She did this by carefully exploring her own environment, her own place, and finding locations that matched her father’s slides. She says, ‘I placed my dad’s slides in my current environment (my house, yard, city). I wanted the past memory placed inside a current memory. So no, I did not go back to the original place. I looked for backgrounds that would seamless blend as much as possible in my current environment with the slide’ (Panebianco, 2020) (personal communication). The present images show her hand, holding the old slide against a new background. The matches are subtle, accurate to the point I cross checked with her to see if she had returned to the original setting.  The images are vibrant, the colours match those of the old Kodachrome slides, everything is hyper real. Her previous work Benny was a Good Boy tells of her memories of her dog and her sorrow in losing him. These images are shown as diptychs, an image of her (or a shadow of her) against one of Benny.  She says ‘I found that you never really lose something, you always have the memories’. In this series the black and white images are hazy, full of grain, echoing loss, grief, and memory.  Other work – The Whole Body of Things explores her search for a sense of belonging, an emotional home.

Courtesy of the artist – from the series Benny was a Good Dog – © Catherine Panebianco


Panebianco, C. (2020) No Memory is ever alone. [30/08/2020].

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

Alexia Webster – Tracing Lives

Alexia Webster is a South African photographer who usually specialises in documentary images, telling the stories of communities and families through portraits of the people. During lockdown she found herself, not at her own home in New York but in Johannesburg, her childhood home. She talks about this time in a fascinating article for the Guardian saying, ‘Suddenly I was forced to sit still. I felt a familiar unsettledness, similar to the anxious uncertainty of my early childhood growing up during apartheid’ (Webster, 2020). So she spent the time interviewing her parents about their early lives and searching though ‘giant, chaotic, dusty piles of family photos’. Out of that she has made a work Tracing Lives which she describes as ‘an incomplete portrait of my parents…. a small glimpse into the quiet violences and small triumphs of life’. This series includes early images from portrait studios of her parents and grandparents, her story of her parents’ early lives, and images where she has overlaid old images to give a ghost like effect. It ends with a looped video of two people, I presume her parents, dancing, fading in and out – just as their memories do.

The article and the images are fascinating, both as a different way of using old family images and for the story she tells. It tells about apartheid. About family traumas.  About moments of joy. It is well worth reading.


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

Martina Lindqvist

Martina Lindqvist series Neighbours consists of isolated houses on a background of snow and ice. There are no people or other dwelling places in sight and the houses almost look like toys. The title contradicts the images. Loneliness seems absolute. In a her artists statement  Lindqvist says ‘The discrepancy between ‘objective reality’ and subjective experience has, for as long as I can remember , been at the forefront of my work…..It is in this vein, of attempting to make visible that which is not really there, that I approach my photography’ (Martina Lindqvist, 2017). These images of desolate houses, failed attempts to settle as people move towards the towns and away from the countryside are both beautiful and terrifying. This is what can happen to a place that loses its meaning.

Untitled #7, from Neighbours, 2014
From Neighbours © Martina Lindqvist

Lindqvist has also produced Murmurs, a series of vanitas pieces that show dying flowers against a background of her grandmother’s wallpaper.  Her grandmother was a proud person, ‘keeping up appearances’ but when the images were taken was suffering from Alzheimer’s and could not remember her past.  The reflect on the coming of death, and what is – or is not- important at that time.

finland 010
from Murmurs © Martina Lindqvist

A third series A Thousand Little Suns also shows houses and buildings (possibly farms) that as set alone in the fields. This time they are shown at night, lit eerily. The source of the light is difficult to fathom. Are these ‘real ‘images? How has she made them? Are they an illusion?

Overall, her images riff on the frailty of life. The isolation of being old and deserted. Were these buildings ever a warm and loving home? What happened? What went wrong?


Martina Lindqvist (2017) At: (Accessed 13/08/2020).

David Spero

In Settlements (Spero, 2017) Spero takes pictures of some of Britains more unusual homes. Home made homes. Huts with canvas roofs. Communal areas. Informal insides and outsides. Gardens and vegetable patches. People living in groups and sharing equipment. These are people who have chosen to live outside the mainstream, with a minimal impact on the environment. There will inevitably be conflicts with authority, with planning and with people that simply do not approve of ‘off the grid’ living and self design.

Whatever you think of the chosen lifestyle the images show a thoughtful appreciation of the ethos of the people. Most of the images are from outside , taken, as noted in the OCA manual, with an eye for the privacy of the families but on his blog he also shows the insides of the houses, details of their lives (Returning from the Pub) and group images. It is a holistic look at their lives and makes for fascinating viewing (Spero, s.d.).

© David Spero

Spero has done another series Churches in which he shows images of churches, or rather religious dwellings where unusual settings have been utilised. For instance, the Christ Shalom Bible Centre in what looks like an old garage and the Truth of God Church in an old industrial building.

© David Spero

In both of these series Spero shows how people utilise what they have to allow them to live how they wish, not how the world expects them to live but what works for them. It is an unusual viewpoint and one well worth exploring. Too often we make assumptions about what is right, that is, what we do equals what everyone should also do. Showing alternative ways is a wake up. It undoubtedly helps that the images are fascinating and draw the eye – but that does not override the ethical import of these series. They tell about the people, whether or not the people are present.


Spero (s.d.) Settlements | David Spero. At: (Accessed 12/08/2020).

Spero, D. (2017) SETTLEMENTS. West Dorset: DAVID SPERO.

Larry Sultan

Larry Sultan (1946 – 2009) was an American photographer who is probably best known for his collaborative work with Mike Mandel which of which the most famous piece is Evidence.

in Evidence Mandel and Sultan collected a series of pictures that were available in the archives at police and fire departments, government bodies and engineering corporations and showed them as fine art pictures. They then collected them into a book, which at the time was extremely controversial, as they claimed authorship of these found pictures. Since then the use of found pictures has become well established either by working with personal or family archives or by finding pictures online and manipulating them.

Sultan says about this work ‘it was very controversial because we had claimed authorship. At that time the word appropriation hadn’t been used in an art context. It came out of a Duchampian strategy of the found object, in this case the found photograph.’ The pictures in Evidence are interesting, not necessarily the most beautiful images, in fact they frequently are not. However, I find at least one of them, which shows the corner of the room and boards in it, fascinating and I could stare at it for hours. Evidence was initially self published however has been reproduced fairly recently in a facsimile version with added essays (Sultan and Mandel, 2018)

Larry Sultan has done much other work. One of his major pieces of work was entitled Pictures from Home which included his words, his own pictures that he took of his family. and also found family memorabilia and snapshots. Sultan describes this work as in his statement about it as ‘What drives me to continue this work is difficult to name. It has more to do with love than with sociology, with being a subject in the drama rather than witness. And in the odd and jumbled process of working, everything shifts; the boundaries blur, my distance slips, the arrogance and illusion of immunity falters. I wake up in the night stunned and anguished’.

Dad with Gold Clubs, 2007 © Estate of Larry Sultan

The images he takes of his family are sometimes staged, sometimes snapshots. They are not necessarily beautiful in anyway, although some are. There is a picture of lawn sprinklers where the light shines through the water. They are everyday images, things that might happen with any family; his mom and dad having a conversation in the driveway with his dad leaning against the car, his  dad scratching his head while carrying a bunch of golf clubs, his dad’s desk scattered with the usual chaotic mess that most desks acquire. All interspersed with snapshots taken across time. He shows images that compare his dad at the same age as ones of himself and comments ‘I always looked younger than he did when he was my age. Perhaps people aged differently prior to the 1960s; can it be that the times we live in leave imprints on our faces and bodies?’

Sprinklers © Estate of Larry Sultan

Sultan went on to make several other series of works, for instance, The Valley in which he examines the way pornography and pornographic pictures are taken and how they fit into an apparently suburban lifestyle. Homeland was his last major piece of work in which he hired day labourers as actors in landscape photography. This produced some sublimely beautiful images of people working in the countryside. Showing again the ordinary things of life. About this piece of work, he says, ‘The suburban terrain – both literally and also in terms of being an American photographer thinking about the daily, the ordinary – is what I to go back to’.  One image from this group is simply entitled Creek, Santa Rosa 2007 shows somebody crouched at the edge of a creek with a bucket and some stones while another person wanders away in the background up towards houses. The light on this image is beautiful, it is a very peaceful image and it leaves me wondering what the men were doing with these buckets. Were they collecting water? Were they washing something? Were they trying to make a garden? Another image in the same series Corte Madera Marsh 2009 shows men wading through water against a background of mountains and tall grass. If you look at it very carefully one of the men is walking away into the grass which comes well above his head. Is it grass or are the trees? And does it matter? It is a very gentle picture and one I could look at for a considerable length of time.

Corte Madera Marsh, 2009 © Estate of Larry Sultan

I find the range of Sultans work fascinating. If, as he suggests he feels ‘alienated from where he lived’ he has managed to show the ordinary, the banal, and the magic of the part of America he lived in. A final quote, ‘Being a photographer allow me to be a witness, to participate in a way that felt right for my blend of being alienated’.

All quotes from the book Larry Sultan – Here and Home (Sultan et al., 2014)


Sultan, L. et al. (eds.) (2014) Larry Sultan: here and home. Los Angeles, California: Munich; London ; New York: Los Angeles County Museum of Art ; Delmonico Books, Prestel.

Sultan, L. and Mandel, M. (eds.) (2018) Evidence. New York: Distributed Art Publishers, Inc.




John Stezakar

John Stezakar makes photo collages using found work, pairing portraits, overlying postcards on images, cutting and pasting. He uses manipulation by hand rather than digital work. Altering and subverting the original pictures. An image of a man turns into a woman – or is it? Eyes are replaced by landscape. Is it what they see? Can you imagine the person behind the mask? Much of his work is based on old film stills and advertising photographs. A story turned into another story. What does his work say about the truth in photography? I find the images fascinating. Some are beautiful others disturbing. Modern Surrealism.

© John Stezaker

In 2012 he received the Deutsche Börse Photography Prize for a collection of his photo collages (John Stezaker, s.d.). His work uses old images, not his own. Does this make him any less a photographer? Which opens the question of what is a photographer? Do you have to take the images yourself – or can you utilise those of others? For the ultimate answer to this one can only look at the work of Sultan and Mandel in Evidence,  reprinted as a facsimile cope in 2018 (Sultan and Mandel, 2018). It has been described as ‘one of the most influential photobooks of the last 50 years. If you are using other’s images are you rather a curator? –but again is a curator someone who keeps, rather than someone who uses? This work falls between, or overlaps, both these descriptions. Does it matter? The images make you (or at least made me) think.

A recent exhibition of his work was held in London at The Approach and the catalogue (Stezaker et al., 2019)gives two fascinating essays about his work together with an overview of images produced between 1976 and 2017. The first essay by Michael Bracewell discusses the source of the images from ‘industrially created romantic fantasies’ and how by the simple act of cutting Stezaker transforms them into ‘an oddly haunted psychological moment’. His art disrupts the image and forces the viewer to look repeatedly at an ‘illogical ‘scene to try and make it make sense. In one of his later series Love the apparently simple act of cutting through the eyes and duplicating them gives an eerie, intensity to the gaze. I would be interested to see them alongside the original images. I did manage to track one down. The original is a picture of Helen Walker by Everett in which the actress looks sultry and stares directly at you. In the altered image. She is shocked, even frightened. She has certainly lost her air of composure.

The finishing essay by Craig Burnett quotes from John Donne’s poem The Ecstasy’ – Our eye-beams twisted, and did thread/our eyes upon one double string…’ and questions (via the talking persona of one of the images) ‘does it lure you in, intrigue, astonish?’. They certainly intrigue and astonish me.


John Stezaker (s.d.) At: (Accessed 10/08/2020).

Sultan, L. and Mandel, M. (eds.) (2018) Evidence. New York: Distributed Art Publishers, Inc.

Deborah Orloff

Deborah Orloff’s work Elusive Memory is a series of images of photographs that she found in the basement of her parent’s house. They are severely degraded, water damaged and stained, often stuck together in piles. She has taken these photographs and re-photographed them and printed them large scale so you can see all the details of the damage and the underlying surface. In her work statement on them she says, ‘these banal objects become simulacra of loss and speak eloquently to the ephemeral nature of memory’ (Orloff, s.d.)

03. Orloff_Elusive_Memory_Mar65
Mar 65 © Deborah Orloff

My favourite on her website is simply labelled as MAR 65. I also love Madonna and Child. Third favourite is Guarded Smile. From this list you can gather that I am struggling to pick out individual ones that I really like more than any others. The most poignant is probably either Extended Pause or Lost Bridesmaid.

In an interview with Ain’t Bad’s Kyra Schmidt (Schmidt and Orloff, 2019) Orloff discusses her feelings about memory. They discuss whether our memories are our own and the fact that her mysterious images meditate on this question. Certainly, the images allow you to make up narratives, they are memories, but they are partially destroyed memories and therefore you can imagine whatever you like from them.

Orloff and Schmidt discuss the oft posed question of what is the connection between memory and photographs? Do we remember the past or is it because we have seen a picture so often that that becomes the memory? Orloff notes that she had been thinking about the connection between photography and memory since her father’s death when she realised just about every memory she had of him was connected to a photograph. When she salvaged the partially destroyed prints found in her father’s basement, she saw them as metaphors for loss and the ephemeral nature of memory.

This understanding of photographs contradicts the more usual reading of photographs when you see what you expect to see.  In this case what you expect is not always what you actually get.

Orloff  goes on to discuss the use of digital photography (especially phone digital photography) ‘ However, with the pervasiveness of digital technology, instead of trying to commit things to memory, we tend to pull out our phone and snap a picture, hardly paying attention to what we’re shooting. The visual reference is stored for potential use. We even use our cameras to take “notes” now. It’s certainly efficient, but I think it gives us license to forget as we’re not fully present in the moment. Instead of experiencing places and events we take photos, that we may never look at, often without really stopping. How can we expect to remember anything beyond the superficial? We process an overwhelming quantity of visual material daily, but we really don’t see most of it.’ The other problem is that everybody is so aware that the photographic image can be manipulated but often everybody assumes it is rather than thinking that it might not be.

The images in Elusive Memory are both beautiful and mysterious. They turn the usual meaning of archival images upside down. They are an archive in that they are a group of items that are found, stored and go together, but they do not give an easy explanation of the events they show. Rather they encourage multiple readings, and the use of one’s own imagination and memories to interpret them.


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

Schmidt, K. and Orloff, D. (2019) In Conversation: Deborah Orloff on Memory, Representation and Objecthood. At: (Accessed 10/08/2020).