Note to Assessors

Dear Assessors,

Thank you for reviewing and assessing the work and learning I have undertaken over the course of study of the Expressing Your Vision module.

As suggested in the OCA study materials I have kept an online learning log throughout the course. This contains the majority of  my work.

My submission for assessment is made up as follows:

  • My online Blog
  • Print submissions for: Assignment Three, the original tutor submission and a reworked submission in response to tutor feedback. In addition there is a print submission for Assignment Five, this is a final submission reworked in response to tutor feedback
  • A Tutor Feedback Folder containing my annotated tutor feedback sheets, my responses and a summative end of course self assessment

My blog is set out in sections which I hope aids navigation. To assist you in finding the course exercises, research points and assignments I have also created a content locater. This is set out below. There is also more information about my research, reflections and learning set out in the sections of the blog which I hope provides further evidence of my engagement, learning and progress during the course.

Yours Sincerely

John Adrian Orr                                                                                                                                            514280


Expressing Your Vision

Part One

Assignment One- Square Mile:

Feedback and Reflection:

de Chirico, alienation and some thought on my square mile:

Exercise 1.1:

Exercise 1.2 Point:

Exercise 1.3 (1) Line:

Exercise 1.3 (2) Line:

Exercise 1.4 Frame:

Project 3 Research Point:

Part Two

Exercise 2.1:

Exercise 2.2:

Exercise 2.3:

Exercise 2.4:

Exercise 2.5:

Exercise 2.6:

Exercise 2.7:

Project 2 Research Point:

Assignment Two- Collecting:

Feedback and Reflection:

Part Three

Exercise 3.1:

Exercise 3.2:

Project Three research Point:

Exercise 3.3:

Assignment ThreeThe decisive moment: Submitted as prints and part of the assessment submission package

Part Four

Exercise 4.1:

Exercise 4.2:

Exercise 4.3:

Exercise 4.4:

Exercise 4.5:

Assignment Four-Languages of light:

Preparation for reworking assignment Four:

Assignment Four Reworked:

Part Five

Exercise 5.1:

Project One-Research Point:

Exercise 5.2:

Exercise 5.3:

Assignment Five-Photography is simple:

Assignment Five Reworked:


Assignment 4 Re-worked

Assignment 4 was an interesting activity, as I stated in my original submission I was not not used to shooting at night. I won’t go over the technical challenges set out in my original assignment write up but following tutor feedback I decided to focus on a very particular aspect of capturing the beauty of artificial light. As my tutor stated in his feedback, the sculptural quality of things can be revealed in artificial light, in the way not possible in daylight when objects can be overwhelmed in day light. Something different happens to structures and their ref;actions when illuminated by artificial light.

I really liked this idea and set about exploring the nature of objects under artificial light. In particular I was interested in public structures and their reflections in  and on different surfaces. This lead me to experiment further around some of the ideas from my original submission.  I also went further a field in a attempt to gain additional inspiration.

In truth I learned a lot about the nature of light and how it behaves on different surfaces, the limitations of my equipment and the challenge of controlling the glow of sodium frequencies that are all pervasive in the urban night scapes. I also learned about how the  effects of artificial light can define structure and shape  in a way that sunlight does not.

Using some of my original images, but in a different order as well as  adding in some new and different ones I arrived at this final set for this reworked submission. The set explores light, reflection, surface and structure.

I looked at the work of a range of photographers who I think explore the nature of structure and shape  and although none focused on the nocturnal in the work I explored, they all helped me think about the nature of structure and composition.

Geert Goiris’s work taught me about thinking about how  the strange can be brought out in what might at fist glance appear as mundane. Lucien Herve’s architectural studies create a beautiful sense of structure through the bold use of shadows and light. Robert Hausser’s stark but engaging work made me think about line, shape and structure and how viewpoint is vital. All of the above artist made me think differently about how shape and structure can be represented on essentially a 2 dimensional medium. 

As with other reworked assignments i feel i am just scratching the surface of concepts and ideas and in many respects the learning achieved is greater that the final images present here. But, I am unashamedly on a journey and accept I have much further to go.


Assignment 4  -Revisiting Exercise 4.3

Capture ‘the beauty of artificial light’ in a short sequence of shots (‘beauty’ is, of course, a subjective term).

The correct white balance setting will be important; this can get tricky –but interesting – if there are mixed light sources of different colour temperatures in the same shot.

You can shoot indoors or outside but the light should be ambient rather than camera flash.

‘Beauty’ is, of course, a subjective term’

Bloomfield 2014

Images-Experiments with artificial light, colour and reflection

Ass 4 relectionstar-4574


Ass 4 church reflection-4500


Ass 4 relection Market Pavillion 2-4504


Ass 4 relection find out more-4536


Hepworth 3 (1 of 1)


Hepworth 2 (1 of 1)


Hepworth 1 (1 of 1)

Additional Contact sheets:

Assign 4 Rework final-1Assign 4 Rework final-2Assign 4 Rework final-3


Bloomfield, R. (2014) Photography 1, Expressing Your Vision, Open College of the Arts, Barnsley

Herve Family Website: (accesed Febr 2016)

Koetzle, H-M. (2011) Photographers A-Z , Taschen, Gmbh

Lunn, O. (2015) Unfathomable: Geert Goiris’ futuristic objects in abandoned landscapes, British Journal of Photography found: (Accessed February 20i6)



Martin Parr-The Rhubarb Triangle and Other Stories, Hepworth Gallery, Wakefield

 Study Visit, 12th March 2016

Hepworth Gallery, Parr Show (1 of 1)


Rhubarb Triangle and other stories is a collection of work by the British photographer Martin Parr (b1952). I attended the exhibition with the OCA and this was my 5th study visit and the final visit while doing Expressing Your Vision.

The event was led by OCA tutor Derek Trillo and there we 13 other students at the event. As with my other experiences of OCA study visit, the discussion and engagement with other students was really excellent. I have commented on this before in other blog entries, but I really do enjoy these study visits, they have for me offered a much more engaging and enhanced exhibition experience. The opportunity to talk about the work with like minded individuals is both enriching and really has helped develop my thinking and understanding.  A big thanks to Derek for leading the group and also Eddie Smith from the OCA office team who joined the group for the visit and contributed to the vibrant discourse on Parr and this work.

The Venue

This was my second visit to the Hepworth and I think it is a wonderful exhibition space with large, light and airy galleries. Named after the Sculptor Barbara Hepworth, who attended a school in the city, the current venue replaces a much more traditional building in the centre of the town (now used as a school). As an unashamed  fan of brutalist architecture I love the the interlocking trapezoidal concrete construction of this building which to my mind is utterly inspired. With relatively few visible exterior windows, the light within the gallery during daylight hours is quite frankly remarkable. The exterior of the building’s concrete finish reflects different wavelengths of light in different ways at different times of the day making the external appearance of the structure change in daylight and under artificial light. Having stayed in Wakefield the night before the study visit, I couldn’t resist photographing the Hepworth exterior by night.

Hepworth Gallery, Wakefield (1 of 1)

The Artist

I have always liked the quirky anti establishment tone of Martin Parr’s work although this was the first time I actually saw his work in the flesh, having until now only seen his images in books and on a screen of one sort or another. Parr seems to divide opinions, as evidenced by the initial reaction to his application to join the Magnum Agency. Some long term members of the agency were reportedly unhappy about the potential of him being accepted into this member led collective. Parr is also one of the early British documentary photographers to move to colour during a time when much documentary work was in black and white. Badger (2009) suggest it was Parr’s exposure to the work of friend and fellow photographer Peter Mitchell that made him look at the potential that colour offered to the documentary photographer. William Egglestone and Stephen Shore are also cited as influences in his shift to colour.

This event at the Hepworth was the first major retrospective of Parr’s work since 2002 held at the Barbican.

The Show- in all its parts

-The Rhubarb Triangle

Central to this exhibition was a new commission, the work that is the title of the show. The Rhubarb Triangle is a collection of images made in the geographical area where forced rhubarb is grown, the triangle being made by the Yorkshire towns of Wakefield, Morley and Rothwell. Forced rhubarb is seen in some circles as being a bit of a delicacy and Parr’s work create’s a pictorial narrative journey in the life of forced rhubarb from its planting in the open, where it is then dug up and moved to the long dark rhubarb sheds where by candle light it is tricked into growing quicker, apparently sweetening it. The work then records its subsequent, picking, packing and consumption in a variety of rhubarb based products. I really liked the linear progress of the work that is in effect telling the story of this unusual crop.

That said, the thing that struck me most when I arrived in the exhibitions space was the sheer scale of the work. Presented as large prints, unmounted, unframed and pinned to the wall with what looked like high tech stainless steel drawing pins, the images fell into three broad categories. These were; posed portraits of individuals and/or groups, images recording people in action, whether in the fields, the rhubarb sheds or on the streets of Wakefield at the annual rhubarb festival. The final category of images were product type images of produce that featured rhubarb in its ingredients. This last type of image made a strong link for me to other Parr work around consumerism where he focused in on the minutiae of food and other products . An example of this at the show was the display of work from Parr’s ‘Common Sense’ series (discussed later).

Hepworth Gallery, Rhub (1 of 1)

Apart from the scale and presentation of the images Parr creates for me , a real sense of story in this work that is overt and very transparent. The images themselves which feature the hallmark Parr saturated colours, I felt were really quite beautiful, although I know that not all will agree. The strong pinks and yellows of the rhubarb plants dominated the gallery space although very vivid, I did feel the work was less extreme in the use of colour than other Parr works. The images didn’ t have the ’70s & 80s picture post card colour palette’ of for example: The Last Resort ( discussed later in this review).

I liked all the different categories of image within in the exhibit but some stood out more than others. In particular some of the individual portraits I found to be evocative and inspiring.

The image below is a good example, it is so expressive and could be straight out of a old master painting. Equally some of the images capturing activity have a workshop urgency about them.

Hepworth Gallery, Rhub portrait (1 of 1)

Whether you like Parr’s work or not, his technical execution of this work is to my eye without doubt superb. The level of detail, composition and exposure all serve to  capture his subjects with a high level of technical competence. The range of material sits well and the narrative of the work is clear and concise to my basic sensibilities!

This is perhaps not a surprise as one of the other OCA students alerted me that Parr made nearly 40,000 images in the execution of this work, these were distilled down to this final set. Whilst this sounds a lot (Frank made 7,500 images that became the 74 photographs that is the Americans, all be it in an area of film) I do wonder though, Parr has perhaps an ulterior motive in the scale of his shooting. As part of my preparation for this study visit I watched the BBC Imagine documentary about Parr. One feature of that stood out in this interesting exposition of Parr the man, was his obsession with collecting. In one scene where he is reviewing contact sheets, he says to Alan Yentob that most of the images on the contact sheet are for his archive and will never be printed. Parr seems to be a collector as well as an image maker.

In all, I was really taken with this work which I feel is sophisticated in its intent and executed beautifully and with the undertaking technical excellence they Parr demonstrates in his work. There is a strong sense of labour and tradition exposed in this work and there is something almost ‘out of time’ about what Parr has recorded here. The thing that really struck home was the sense of cultural record created by this work. There was something almost anthropological or ethnographic about the overall effect of the exhibition on me. It made me think much more widely about Parr’s contribution to a record about our culture. For me the work goes beyond art. Unashamedly I am an absolute fan!

It was also an excellent learning opportunity to compare and contrast The Rhubarb Triangle with several of Parr’s well know other works. I will consider these in turn.

-Work and Leisure

Work and Leisure was an assembled work from a range of Parr projects. It was perhaps the largest gallery space and images of work in various forms, were flanked on the opposite wall with images of people at Leisure. The contrast was somewhat obvious and although I found some of the images intriguing and engaging this part of the exhibition didn’t gell for me the way the other works did. I think it was the sense of anything and everything being photographed that perhaps troubled me the most. There were portrait images of coffee shop ’employee of the month, along side images of technicians working on high tech military aircraft, along side engineering workers in the black country. The image below, which  on investigation ( a small BAe logo can be found on close inspection) is I think a scene from the construction of two Trident Submarines has an epic quality and could be a straight publicity image. I got a real sense of Parr the collector in how this exhibit was arranged. I would like to have known more about the curation of this work and how much Parr had a hand in its assembly. My hypothesis is that he did not and this was someone else view of Parr’s work. This is of course just a hunch!

Hepworth Gallery Trident (1 of 1)

That said there was some excellent images within the set, that did reveal something about Parr’s eye or an image, for something interesting that can contribute to a greater whole. The leisure element of the work had a decidedly beach and sea influence ( a nod to Tony Ray Jones perhaps, as well as parr’s own work at seaside towns. There were other images, many of people at various forms of party or celebration.

Hepworth Gallery work and leisure 4 (1 of 1)

Like ‘The Rhubarb Triangle’, this exhibition was predominately printed on a large scale and pinned to the wall. Some of the prints were not particularly flat ( as can be seen in the submarine construction image above) and I think this creates a sense of the temporal and fleeting about the assembly display and ultimate removal of the exhibit. There was no sense of the protection or preciousness of the work, that can be a feature of framed exhibits. I liked the ‘matter of fact’ presentation of these works, the focus was clearly on the content with the presentation being less of an issue.

-Auto Portraits

This is a highly quirky,  but I think a revealing exhibit. In it Parr is photographed in a range of portrait styles and approaches reflecting different cultures and widely differing perspectives on what constituents a portrait to be made a preserved . There is something very whimsical about his face in so many genres, some that are quite tacky to my British cultural sensitivities

autoportrait 1\         LON91159-4

What at first appears to be just plain funny does I think reveal something about how portrait photography differs from culture to culture, indeed how photography and the still image is seen through the lens of different cultures. I am unsure of Parr’s original intent, but seeing all the individual works displayed simultaneously, rather than leafing through a book, made me think much more about how the portrait is a part of peoples lives in different lands. 

On reflection and although I enjoyed seeing it, this work for me did not sit well with the rest of the exhibits and again I pose the question about the curator’s choice in it’s inclusion. I know there are many deciding factors for the curator, one of which might be the artists preference, but also availability can be another critical influencing factor in the the choice of what might form part of a show. I need to learn more about the process of putting on and curating an exhibition. 

-Common Sense

On the far wall of the gallery that contained the ‘Work and Leisure’ display, Parr’s well known exhibit , ‘Common Sense’ was displayed. This is classic Parr, showing his keen eye for detail and his mission for finding and recording the absurd. The work says much about consumerism in the UK and the wider world and the lurid colours attest to the man made artificiality of the world around us.

Hepworth Gallery common ense 2 (1 of 1)

Hepworth Gallery, Common sense (1 of 1)

Made up of lots of individual prints of the same size, the work is assembled into a large grid creating a single work from the assembled pieces. I read in the Taylor’s (2004) review of this work that Parr has no preference for how the work is assembled and so again wondered about the selection in this instance and who made the choice about the order and content?

The work really shows Parr’s use of highly saturated colours in part created by the use of a macro lens and ring flash, allowing the artist to work in very close proximity to his subjects. In many case where people are in the images he must have gained a degree of trust to have been allowed to make some other images. The work also includes lots of ‘objects’ of one sort or another, all making reference to consumerism. 

I really liked the ‘attack on the senses’ that this work creates and out of the absurdity of some of the content comes so quite profound messages about the world about us. This work also reveals more about Parr as an investigator of culture and society.

-The Cost of Living

I had seen this work in book form and struggled with it. In many respects Parr is recording the mundane through the lens of ‘Thatcherite’ Britain in the middle class communities of Bristol. Parr made the work after moving to Bristol and it creates a window on middle class communities, perhaps as a counter to his critics about his focus on poor communities in work’s like the ‘The Last Resort’.

The images contain many of Parr’s recurring themes, consumerism, community and the consumption of food. In his very person style he is able to make images in very close proximity to his subjects, again attesting  to his capacity to gain the trust of those he is photographing.


One thing I really noticed about this set was the less lurid colour palette used. Although Parr still deployed his fill flash and close up lens, and still quite vivid, the work was less extreme than some of he other works.

Of all he works at the show this one engaged me less, perhaps because of my own recollection of Thatcherite Britain in its heyday!

-The Last Resort

This was the work that  I was most familiar with although it was great to see it in person. I have owned the book of this work for some time and all the images were familiar to me.  Focusing on the resort of New Brighton, parr captures images of families and individual in what i always imagine to be holidays or days out. The colour pallet of the work is reminiscent of seaside post crds of the 70’s and 80′ and create a somewhat unnatural view of the world.

The images create mixed notions for me, they raise questions about the subjects and although they show some poignant family moments, they set these moments in some cases against a back drop of squalor. The scenes of bathers and seaside goers enjoying them selves amongst detritus and litter sits uneasily. Although Parr’s intent was perhaps to show not all was well within Thatchers Britain there is something quite unforgettable about this work. particularly those of children in questionable conditions. The recurrent themes of consumerism, food and leisure all appear in this work, further revealing the threat that run through much of his work.


I  know that the work was well received when first shown in Liverpool, but it received a very different reception when shown in London. Parr was accused of exploiting the poor and this critique may well have been an influence in his choice of subject for ‘The most of living’.

All of that said Parr does i believe again she his ability to say some thing greater than the pictorial in this work, he opens a window on the world that might not otherwise have been seen and his images describe something of society, culture and community in 80’s Britain. 

-The Non Conformists

This was a genuinely fascinating collection of images to see, not least because it was the earliest work I had seen of the artist. Made while he lived in Hebden Bridge , the work looks at the communities around the Chapels in the hills above the town. They provide a unique insight into communities that were clearly in transition when he made the work. This part of the exhibition also felt very different to the rest of the exhibition. The simple framing behind glass, work printed at a relatively small size and the layout  of the images was much more like a documentary photographers exhibitions I had seen by other artists. In saying this I am comparing the show to exhibitions of the work of  Cartier Bresson, Kertesz and Brassai, to name just a few. Again I asked my self questions about the nature of the curation and the choices made?

Hepworth Gallery, Wakefield non conformists (1 of 1)

There is a grittiness to the images, very much in the tradition of monochrome documentary photography. That said I think you can see the emerging themes that were to become part of his hallmark. The public consumption of food in particular being a subject he continues to return to. 

Some of the images have a real beauty about them to my eye as well as saying something about the community around the chapels he engaged with. The image below has a stark but simultaneaosly inviting feel and seeing it as a framed print at the exhibition, it had been so well printed that it looked to be illuminated from behind!


Key learning from this study visits

  • Parr’s work is all the more impressive for being seen as prints, I have been a fan of his work and I know have a greater understanding of why. He appeals to my interest in things beyond the image, thins such as the nature of culture and society. Parr is a sociologists photographer whose work contribute to understanding culture and community.
  • Parrs work might be quirky but there is a strong sense of technical prowess. the work is well composed and exposed beautifully, indeed it is full of revealing decisive moments. There is an irony in this, in that I have heard from other students ( although I need to track down a definitive source) that Cartier Breton was vigorously opposed to Parr’s membership of magnum
  • Parr does I believe, create a real senses of narrative in his work, he might have a keen eye for the odd and absurd but he is an accomplished story teller in pictures.
  • Before seeing this work I very much saw Parr as a bit of an oddity making quirky, but none the less beguiling images. I left the show with a strong sense of the seriousness in this work. Parr routes out and makes visible some otherwise hide truths about the world around us. This is far from trivial and really rather important!

Further lines of study

I am keen to explore some of Parr’s influences further, these include; Tony Ray Jones, Peter Mitchell-in particular his: ‘A New Refutation of the Viking 4 Space Mission’ work and Stephen Shore. I also need to learn more about the curation process and will undertake some private research on this theme.


Badger, G. (2009) Quoted from the introductionParr, M (2009) op cit

Parr, M (2009) The Last Resort, Dewi Lewis, London

Taylor, R. (2004) Martin Parr- Common Sense- Tate Summary found at: (Accessed March 2016)

BBC (2003) The World According to Martin Parr, found here ( Accessed March 2016)

Assignment 5 Reworked

Following the helpful feedback from my tutor I revisited my original submission.  Specifically I replaced the 7th image from the original group with a new image. I retained the steps motif but took an entirely different view point. The steps had been used as a signifier for my daughter moving on, but as my tutor rightly highlighted the original image jarred with the developing narrative of the set. I now have the steps, but the view point is an empty beach and a far horizon. The other image I replaced was the final one. This time going for a wide view of the beach huts again with no one in sight, reflecting what had been, but removing the sense of decay that was seen as being unhelpful in the original set. I think the is something ambiguous about the reselected final image and the high tide mark makes an upward arrow, replacing the rusty bolt central in the previous final image. 

I am  happy with the rework an the images hang together retaining my original intention which was to some extent inspired by the  of the Adams (1994) quote used in the original submisions introduction.

The reworked set is set out below.

Assignment 5  Photography is simple -Reworked

Leaving Home – exploring emotion and place

“Landscape pictures can offer us, I think three varieties-geography, autobiography, and metaphor. Geography is, if taken alone, sometimes boring, autobiography is frequently trivial, and metaphor can be dubious. But taken together…. the three kinds of information strengthen each other and reinforce what we all work to keep intact – an affection for life”

Adams (1996)

Light leak (1 of 1)


Beam and boards (1 of 1)


66 no 2 (1 of 1)


Horizon (1 of 1)


Lock (1 of 1)


Key (1 of 1)


Step 4 (1 of 1)


Steps 2 (1 of 1)


Steps empty beach v-5055


Steps empty beach 2-


Assignment 5 Feedback

Ass 5 feedback-5193

I was very pleased with the tutor feedback for Assignment 5. It was as ever supportive, it highlighted the areas of strength and areas to consider to strengthen the work. As this was the final assignment I was particularly pleased that I finished the course on a pretty positive note.

Throughout the course I have used a consistent approach for reviewing and acting upon tutor feedback. This has involved using three highlighter pens, green for positive, orange for negatives and yellow for areas for development. Much of this final feedback i could highlight green!

That said there are some areas to consider. Based on the feedback I am going to change at least tow of the images and add in some new work that will help me convey the ambition I set out in the statement at the start of the assignment. Also there are a few things i want to do to my blog in response to tutor comments. Th comments were generally postive but a couple of helpful issue have been raised.

My tutor referenced one of my works as being similar to Harry Callahan, so I will look further at the work of this photographer.

Perhaps the biggest issue to consider is how I narrow my approach down a further into a more specific genre. As with other assignments I I am pasting  below the response i sent to my tutor to the assignment feed.

This of course is also the last time I will do this on this course!

Response to Tutor-Assignment 5 Feedback

Dear Robert,

Many thanks for your as ever, helpful and constructive feedback on this the final assignment of the course. The last 10 months have gone by rather quickly! I did, as with the other assignments, enjoy planning, researching and executing this assignment and feel I have learned more along the way. In many respects the final outcome does not always reflect the level of learning taking place. There is also the continued realisation there is still a long way to go with my work, but I will keep going as long as the journey is gratifying and feels fulfilling.

Based upon your feedback there are elements of the assignment I will rethink and re-work. You are right about the final image, I was uncertain about that too, your comments have given me an idea for a different final image. I am also going to look at some of the others with a view to some refinement to the set. As with other assignments this took me out of my comfort zone, things I would not have done if I were not on a course of study, I am really grateful for this.

Your feedback on the blog is most helpful, particularly because this last 10 months has been my only experience of blogging, something else I have learned on my OCA journey! I have undertaken a lot of experimentation and have to be frank been hesitant at times in settling to final images. I will look at sharpening these up though in terms of quality. I am also looking at printing much my work now. The final images can vary so much on different screens. Printing brings a new set of challenges but exciting (and expensive) ones! That said there is something quite satisfying about an image as an artefact, not least because of both Barthes and Sontag’s thoughts on the photograph as an object and all that it carries.

I have really enjoyed the reading and research element of the course and feel I have gained many new insights into the work of photographers I have been superficially (I now realise) familiar with for years. Most importantly though I have been exposed to a whole new canon of image makers whose work is challenging, inspiring and in some cases quite frankly life enriching!

I am not quite finished Expressing Your Vision just yet because I am in the process of completely re doing Assignment four. As you suggested I have had a look at the work of Geert Goiris, I particularity like the other worldly strangeness he creates out of the relatively mundane. This led me to look too at the work of Lucien Herve and Robert Hausser, in my exploration of shape and form. I have a clear shooting schedule and a plan of locations and will complete this in the next few weeks. I plan to submit my work in mid May, ready for the July assessment panel. I also have some things to complete on the blog too. I am also getting my head around the new submission requirements.

I am slowly narrowing down my work into a more specific genre, this hasn’t proved easy but I am sanguine about this, I still have much to explore and learn. That said my recent visit to the Alec Soth exhibition at the Media Space took me a step closer to thinking further about the Landscape as documentary and social commentary. This has that has been a feature of my thinking for some time and I have some emerging ideas about this in my own work. I do need to look at the work of more artists though and I am patient in my search for a personal voice. I see the selection of an area of specific interest and focus as being an iterative process, recognising the importance of not trying to photograph anything and everything!

Whatever my outcome at assessment, I am a better, more thoughtful and positively self critical photographer than I was 10 months ago, in this sense signing up with the OCA has proved very worth while. I have however a keenness to be much better yet though!

I am sure Context and Narrative will shape and challenge my thinking further in my OCA year ahead.

Can I formally thank you for your support, encouragement, honest and constructive critique, it has been valuable and has been appreciated.
Very best wishes and many thanks.



Lucien Herve (Lazlo Elkan)

I came across the photographer Lucien Herve while reading about the Swiss/French Architect Le Corbusier. Herve, a Hungarian by birth, born in 1910, changed his name several times, but settled on Lucien Herve while working with the French resistance. Herve had moved to France at the age of 19, the country became his home for the rest of his life. During the war he had been arrested by the Nazi’s and escaped from a prion camp continuing to work in the resistance up until the end of the war.

Herve 1

Copyright Lucien Herve

Herve did a number of jobs before becoming a photographer including working in the fashion industry and as a scenery painter in theatres. He worked as a photographer for a number of magazines, but it was a series of images he made of the ‘Unite d’Habitation’, a large housing complex in Marseilles, that caught the attention of the Architect, Le Corbusier. Seeing Herve’s images Le Corbusier employed him as his photographer.The pair worked together for 16 years up until Le Corbusier death in 1965.

In addition to his architectural photography Herve also made portraits of a number of well known figures including; Jean Cocteau and Henri Matisse.

Looking at Herve’s images of buildings and structures he creates a sense of the modern, he emphasises shape, form, modernity and whilst creating some quite abstract images does not loose the sense that these are space for people to live.

Viewing the work with a 21st century eye there is something stark and austere, but the 21st century viewer carries information about the social challenge and indeed catastrophe of some types of tower block living, but in the context of the time they were made there was probably something very hopeful and optimistic in the futuristic lines and curves he isolated and accentuated.


Copyright Lucien Herve

Herge 2

Copyright Lucien Herve

Herve’s work is almost all made under natural light and he use of contrast to create a sense of shape. Having spent time looking at his work I intend to create some new images in my ongoing project to document Brutalist architecture under threat. I’m also going to try and use some of this influence in my rework of assignment 4.


Koetzle, H-M. (2011) Photographers A-Z , Taschen, Gmbh

Herve Family Website: (accesed Febr 2016)



Robert Huasser

Hausser was a German photographer, born in 1924, the winner of more than 50 awards including being the recipient of the 1995 Hasselblad Award.

I came across the work of Hausser while researching my reworking of assignment 4. I was investigating shape and form and although Hausser seems to have worked in a wide variety of genres, spanning both commercial art photography, there are some striking images that record and fantastic sense of shape and form from the world around him.

Working predominantly in black and white, Hauser seems to have captured something quite beautiful in the mundane. The images below resonated with my intent in assignment 4 , all be it that I was  concentrating on shape and form under artificial light.


Copyright Robert Hausser

There is a wonderful symmetry and sense of line and surface, as well as a sense of the abstract whilst also being simply a picture of a very repetitive hoarding. There is also some human interest in the distance, something I lacked in my assignment images.  I genuinely had not seen this image before I made mine above though!

The image above again is beautifully simple and yet really engaging, it has an almost science fiction quality, I had to do a double take as to what it was. It’s reality is far more mundane,and is part of a tube line construction.

Koetzle  (2011) suggests he had a:

‘remarkable eye for the absurd in the trivial’

I am inclined to agree with this statement but also feel there is a really thoughtful geometry to his work, which in turn creates a very interesting compositional approach.

I am unsure how well known his work is beyond the art world, and I will explore the work of Hausser further, there is I think much to learn from his work and much to be  inspired by from his images.


Koetzle, H-M. (2011) Photographers A-Z , Taschen, Gmbh

Preparation for reworking Assignment 4

In preparation for reworking assignment for I looked at the work of Geert Goiris following a recommendation from my tutor. In planning the reworking the assignment, one image from my original submission was identified as being the strongest , my tutors specifically said:

‘It begins to find the sculptural quality of an object – which is something night photography helps immensely by subtracting distractions and especially an over-bright sky”

The image shown below is of remarkably mundane object, a builders hoarding, but it takes on a different form under cover of night when lit by tungsten and halogen!

Ass 4 relection find out more-4536

I was encouraged by this statement because it really resonated with my own thought about the whole set I submitted. I was struck by the entirely different form

Goiris is a Belgian photographer born in 1971 whose work seems to be quite experimental and is hard to define within a single genre. However it was his landscape work that I was drawn to and in particular the strange alien feel he creates

Goiris work is instantly other worldly to me and his images of what look like abandoned places have a dystopian feel while also being visually beautiful. Lunn (2015) suggests that Goiris work is: .

”..mundane yet spectacular, familiar yet unfamiliar”

an analysis that I entirely concur with.

Goiris’s work creates a mood and a sense of place that is at times quite familiar but simultaneously alien. The image below epitomises this for me in that it is clear it is the remains of a human construction, but is is also strangely unfamiliar. The image raise questions about where itv was taken and what happened to this space, was it abandoned and why?


Copyright Geert Goiris

Similar the image below has some thing of the mundane about it whilst the location is far from mundane!


Copyright Geert Goiris

In reworking the assignment i thought i might look for the mundane under artificial light to see if I might capture a different view or indeed a different sense of an object. The sculptural nature of things might , as with my image of the hoarding take on a different guise. I also thought I needed to explore the unfamiliar as part of the rework and decided to go to locations alien to me in which to make the images.

More to follow…….


Lunn, O. (2015) Unfathomable: Geert Goiris’ futuristic objects in abandoned landscapes, British Journal of Photography found: (Accessed February 20i6)

Alec Soth: Gathered Leaves- Media Space-Science Museum, London

Study Visit, 23rd January 2016

Soth Tutor-4966


This was my fourth OCA study visits and it proved to be an excellent event. Alex Soth’s work was something I was keen to see  in person and the organisation of this particular study visit led to a much more immersive exhibition experience than usual. It was a large group of students that attended and this added to the enjoyment and the learning opportunities offered during the day. I say an immersive event because of the way that the visit was structured. We started at 10.45am, with our tutor for the day, Helen Warburton, leading a leisurely but well structured tour through the exhibition. The tour through each of the exhibits in turn was augmented with a range of challenging questions for us all to consider. In addition to looking in depth at the work of the artist, Helen also encouraged us all to consider the structure and planning of the exhibition. Although exhibition organisation was an obvious topic to consider, this did make me think about the work in a different manner. After this we gathered and had a working lunch discussing the the exhibition and our reflections on what we had seen and how it made us feel.

This was then followed in the afternoon by a second tour of the exhibition, this time led by Kate Bush the exhibitions curator. This provided an additional and different perspective on the work and also offered a direct link to some of the artists thinking and decision making about the show. I felt better prepared to make the most of the curators tour because I had already looked at and reflected upon the work in the morning. This second tour augmented my understanding of Soth and his work.

We then concluded the day with a really engaging discussion and debate led by Helen that allowed for further layers of meaning to be considered, indeed revealed. In many respects it was an exhausting and long day but I travelled home feeling very fired up about the work I had seen and also with ideas for developing my own work in my somewhat idiosyncratic journey to try and find this illusive notion of personal voice!

Although a voice in my head is telling me I am becoming a bit of a broken record, I do need to say that this short review and reflection upon this OCA study visit doesn’t really do justice to the learning that this event afforded me.

I also need to note at that this stage that following the exhibition I have invested quite a few nights of further research into Soth and his work, in particular looking at a number of interviews and his motivation as an artist and lectures he has given so that I can gain a deeper understating of his work. This was very much in response to the motivating effect that the OCA visit had on me, not just in looking at the work that hung on the walls of the gallery space but also the excellent discussion and dialogue with other students at the event.

I am not sure who reads this blogs beyond me and my OCA tutor, but if there are any new OCA students reading this entry I really do want to extol the virtues of the study visit and the opportunity to discuss, reflect and debate the work at an exhibition with other motivated and engaged OCA students, it is a feature of the OCA that I really enjoy.

Exhibition context

Making a direct reference to Frank’s ‘ The Americans’ Soth traveled across America making the work  in this exhibition. The sum of its parts says something unique and also telling about the state of America and although it has not been made explicit in anything I have read or researched, this work is an ‘insiders’  view so to me is fundamentally different to the work of Frank in the ‘The Americans’

To my developing eye the work weaves between documentary, survey, landscape, portraiture and fine art creating and engaging and thought provoking images whose meaning is well beyond the merely pictorial.

The title of the exhibition ‘Gathered Leaves’  takes its title from the epic Walt Whitman’s epic poem ‘Song of my self’, this was a reworking by Whitman of an earlier work. Gathered leaves is a playful and ambiguous title and might refer to images but also pages in book, indeed a photobook may be referred to as gather leaves? In the same way Whitman reworked his poem over decades, Soth revisits recurrent themes distilling more and more about the american condition and the state of the nation. It is as much a sociological exploration as it is a visual one.

The exhibition was spread over four distinct spaces, each self contained and covering the the four bodies of work that make up the exhibition, Sleeping by the Mississippi, Niagara, Broken Manual and Songbook. Soth is clear that this is not a retrospective, suggesting to Brad Feuerhelm in his interview for American Suburb X that he is too young to have retrospective. Kate Bush ,Curator of the exhibit refereed to it a s ‘mid career, review. There is a real sense of progression not only in Soth’s development as an artist but also in his approach to sharing working. All of the exhibition rooms contain display cases with artefacts (maquette’s and finished photobooks) charting the development of Soth’s visual ideas and themes.

This is important because Soth himself suggests that the photo book is the ultimate medium to transmit work. In the interview with Feuerhelm he suggests:

“but still the book is kind of the ultimate container, shows come and go the book lives on”

Sleeping by the Mississippi

Sleeping by the Mississippi is a haunting collection of images that to me were filled with paradox and ambiguity. It is perhaps an example of landscape photography as metaphor but also as biography. Soth produced the work through a fairly epic road trip following the path of the Mississippi, which starts in the north near his home town and ends up more than 2000 mile later reaching the sea at the Gulf of Mexico. The work tells of his journey and engagement with people along the way. To european observers like myself, the Mississippi conjures up notions of the deep south, so this was immediately challenged by the opening images which are of snow covered landscapes of northern states in winter.  


An immediately visible irony is that the river rarely appears in the pictures. Exploring the themes of religion, dreams, people and places along the way, the images were all quite beautiful and technically excellent. Shot with a 10×8 view camera the images in the gallery all looked to be predominantly 20×24 framed colour prints river which rarely appears in any of the images.  

Soth’s engagement with people comes through strongly in this work, in part perhaps through the slow and intensive process of using a large view camera. He needed to engage with the subjects to gain their trust, not least so that they were patient through the time it takes to prepare and make an image with a view camera. although there is a wide range of images, Charles Lindbergh’s bed( there are many images of beds and couches), Johnny Cash’s childhood home, convicts in a work detail working on the roadside and individuals who have shared their dreams in writing with Soth as part of the project.  

Copyright Alec Soth

A large vitrine in the centre of the gallery displayed various iterations of the photobook of the exhibit. This was particularly engaging because the contents ranges from the artist original Zine like machetes to very reversions of the final print volumes. It was really good to see how the work had developed. This first gallery also proved to be an excellent introduction to the work Soth and good preparation for what was to come next galleries.


The next gallery contained ‘Niagara’, Soth’s study of this settlement on the Canadian border famous for its falls and cheap wedding motels. Described in the exhibition notes as the location of ‘spectacular suicide and affordable honeymoons’.

Niagara was created over 7 visits by Soth to Niagara Falls and its surrounding areas. The location again suggests contrast and contradiction,  it being a place where people go to get married and also to commit suicide.

That said the first thing that struck me though about this work was the huge jump in scale when compared to Sleeping by the Mississippi. The full effect of Soth’s use of a 10×8 large format  really jumps out. The prints were all on grand scale with all being many feet in dimensions.

Alec-Soth niag falls

Copyright Alec Soth

Central in the gallery was a picture of the falls taken from the tourist viewpoint and reflecting the postcards sold at the location and many peoples view of this location. It is a beautifully composed classic landscape image right down to the minutiae of detail in the clouds.


Many of the other images contrast with the grandeur of the falls, for example ‘Impala’, which I imagine is the name of the somewhat tacky looking motel, more reminiscent of a Watford industrial estate than a dream wedding location.  Soth is making a statement here about how trite this place is yet people for there for what is sometimes described as the happiest day of their lives!

Soth Niagara-4974

There were a lot of images of people, brides, couples, a swimmer, a very gaunt and a sad looking girl with her baby. If it was his intention to create a sense of a place of sadness but he achieved this. I think it was in this exhibit that he really anchored his ability to create a real sense of the emotions and culture of a place and whilst he may have been using landscape as metaphor, he was also in my opinion using landscape to share some  deep cultural insights. In addition to the melecholoc feel of some of the images there was also something almost whimsical, again demonstrating his ability to create a sense of place, with a capacity to go beyond mere location and explore culture, emotions and the ives of those that pass through a place.

A vitrine in the centre of the gallery space had a strange collection of artefacts,  maquette’s and love letters that the people he had met shared with him. It was clear from the display case contents that Soth is able to really gain trust and engagement with the people he photographs, they give him far more than just their likenesses on film!


This was the third element of the exhibition and to me represented an altogether darker series of work. Initially inspired by the flight and subsequent fugitive in hiding story of  Eric Rudolph, the  Olympic Bomber, Soth began to explore individuals who took themselves ‘off grid’ and into the wilderness. America still has space enough for people to hide and this work explores many aspects of this fact.

There was a much darker feel to this work and this was also reflected in the subdued lighting of the exhibition space, bright  sptlights illuminated the works isn the darkened gallery.

Soth Broken Manual 1-4976

During his research Soth came across online communities of survivalists, individuals and groups, living on the margins or wilderness and certainly beyond american mainstream society. His subjects ranged from hermits, religious recluses, white supremecists, marginal and to some extent broken and troubled individuals. Soth also explored the written and online manuals and advice available to support those who want to live ‘off grid’, even creating a survival manual himself.


Copyright Alec Soth

Much of the work was again on a very larges scale with the beauty of his very effective use of large format film shining through, even when the subject material was more troubling. It was again clearly evidenced that he engaged with his subject at quite a deep and meaningful level and I couldn’t help thinking there was some real risk in the body of work, given that some of those he made images of were frankly quite dangerous!

The vitrine in this space contained an intriguing collection of artefacts reflecting both research and engagement with this topihe exhibit is a collection of large scale works that mix environments  portstaure with sense 

Soth Broken Manual 2-4987

I was troubled by this work but also drawn to it, it appears to me that this body of images and artefacts, like the previous exhibits, provides strong evidence of Soth’s ability to peel back the layers of contemporary society, using his camera as a tool,  to make meaningful statements that transcend the pictorial content images themselves. Frankly, I was really moved by Soth’s skill, technical competence but most of al his insight.


This was the gallery and exhibit of the show. It was also very different. Firstly although it retained the giant snake of the previous two galleries it was all in black and white. Also it was made digitally. Mimicking the news style photography. Soth had been a newspaper photographers in the early part of his career. the work explores the nature of truth and some of the text connected with th images come form the songs that were part of American culture in a time before rock and roll.

soth songbook

Copyright Alec Soth

Although there is a very journalistic feel to many of the large images there was something quite artificial about them too, perhaps it was the very quirky  and apparently posed subject matter of some of the images.

I did struggle somewhat with this part of the exhibition, in part because it didn’t have the dramatic beauty of the earlier works in the show, but also perhaps because I found less coherence with this work and the other three exhibits. I fully accept that this is about me though rather than the work.

There were also the mini newspaper publication that were aprs of the exhibit, set out in vitrines and produced in partnership with a print journalist friend. The overall effect t me was something helpfully mocking about the print media and its relationship with truth. As stated though I found this work the hardest to read, but none the less engaging.

Some thoughts on the nature of this exhibition

During  the curator led tour of the exhibition, Kate Bush referred to Soth as being a very generous artist. This was a direct reference to the contents of the vitrines in each of the exhibition spaces. Soth was very open about his book making process from the genesis of an idea to its final execution. Bush suggested that many artists keep their processes secret, just wanting to share the final work and not the journey to completion. Soth’s generosity is perhaps in part that he sees himself as an educator as well as artist. There is also something about his self confidence that allows this level of sharing. Both also perhaps feels that the work is more than the final images and i was veritably left with the sense of having visited a very intellectually engaging visual installation.

Little Brown Mushrooms is Soth’s publishing company, as stated earlier, the book really is his preferred medium.  I couldn’t help wondering about the title. In the days when I looked at the work of Ansel Adams and other f64 group photographers, the pulsihing house with the printing process Adams felt did justice to the zone system created  monochrome images he made is called Little Brown. This company still prints his collected works. I couldn’t help wonder was this choice of title a coincidence, may be may be not, it did set me thinking though!

Key learning points from the Visit


  • Landscape photography can be biographical
  • The notion of the road trip can be slow and evolving project
  • Landscape and portraiture can , when skilfully captured, sit well in a singular narrative
  • Print Big!! this work stood out for its ever increasing scal
  • Photo-books can go through a range of generations before settling on a final form. Soth’s show the development of ideas over time in a very revealing and inspiring manner
  • Engagement with subjects yields dividends, Soth’s slow but methodical appraoch engages his subjects allowing him to really get lots fro them
  • Immersion in a theme can lead to outcomes that were not originaly intended. Broken Manual in particular demonstrates this.
  • Soth, through this exhibition is utterly inspiring!!!


Soth, A. (2015) Gathered Leaves-Exhibition Notes

Soth, A. (2015) Gathered Leaves found at: (Accessed  January 2016)

Video Interview with Soth: