Note to Assessors

 Formal assessment submission for Photography 1: Context and Narrative

 Dear Assessors
Thank you for taking time to review my work. Here is a brief note explaining the contents of my blog and submission pack.

 My blog can be found at: (available for public viewing).
All of the material for assessment can be found through clearly marked menu headings as follows:

Note to assessors
Coursework: with sub menus for the learning log exercises and projects.
Planning and preparation – for each assignment
Submission to tutor – the original submissions
Tutor feedback and response – my thoughts on tutor feedback,                                              rework ideas.
Formal assessment submission – final assignment submissions.
Research – theoretical
Research – visual
Exhibitions and Study Visits
Conclusion and final reflection

There will be no changes to my Context and Narrative blog content following submission to OCA on 16th May 2017.  

Additional material – physical submission
 To supplement my blog I have submitted an A4 clamshell photo box containing the following:

  • Note to assessors.
  • Assignment Two: Photographing the unseen (9 x A4 images, I page of accompanying text)
  • Assignment Three: Self-portrait (3 x A4 images)
  • Assignment Four: Reading photographs (1 x sample image, 3 pages of essay text)
  • Assignment Five: Making it up (2 x A4 images)

The above images and text are available to view through clearly marked menu headings in the blog.

Thank you


Conclusion and Final Reflection

Conclusion and Final Reflection

I have been well and truly coaxed out of my comfort zone during C&N and feel I have progressed enormously. I had no idea just how much I would learn. I now see differently and am more mindful of my surroundings. I have thoroughly enjoyed the reading and research element of this course, I have learned so much, not just about photography, but also photographers, artists, essayists and philosophy!

The topic I felt ‘most comfortable’ with was assignment 2: ‘Photographing the Unseen’. The subject is very personal to me and one I was able to connect with physically and emotionally. I was able to demonstrate, through photographs, a sense of place and convey a narrative of transcending through time. Creating photographs that speak for themselves, through metaphors and with creative use of my camera, gave me a great sense of achievement. Technically this assignment enabled me to develop camera techniques and attempt to get to grips with Photoshop!

The area which is furthest away from who I want to be as a photographer and the one I felt most uncomfortable with, was without question the self-portrait work. Being an introvert and quite a private person, I really didn’t relish the thought of putting my feelings out there. I will talk to friends and family, perhaps write down how I am feeling, but articulating my emotions in a series of images was a difficult task. I have never considered the medium of photography to explore myself in this way. I was aware that I didn’t need to include myself in the photos – I don’t think I am very photogenic – but I wanted to test it out. I was surprised and pleased with the results. The experimentation and general playing around with my camera and laptop helped me create something unexpected.

The main learning for me was how to read a photograph and add my own interpretation. I found the whole concept of contextualisation and how it can be manipulated quite an eye opener. I feel that experimentation and taking risks has had a huge impact on my confidence with the camera and my creative ability.

The assignment I enjoyed working on the most has to be the final one, constructing an image. This piece of work really stirred my creative juices. I enjoy fiction and escapism and have relished the opportunity to demonstrate this through my images. Using props, costumes, models and metaphors to create images offering conflicting narrative, with an air of mystique and humour was such fun. I also found the research around this module fascinating.

Regarding my personal voice – well I really struggle with this. I’m not convinced I actually require one. To try to fit into a specific pigeon-hole is really not me. I tend to go with the flow, or in the case of photography, it’s what interests or appeals to me at that particular time. It is very early days yet, I am still learning, I am still exploring and experimenting. Each assignment pulls me in a new and different direction. Saying all that, there has been a theme running through C&N, one which I purposefully developed as I progressed through the assignments. Predominantly, the passing of time and memories.

Will I return to these assignments at a later date?  I’m sure I will – in particular the Essay Writing, but to all of them as reference points.

In the coming year I intend to engage and interact more with the OCA community. Distance learning can be a lonely place and the support and encouragement of fellow students and tutors is a comforting thought as I move into Level 2. My Lightroom and Photoshop skills continue to improve, albeit slowly. I will continue to practice with my camera to become competent with all the features. Most importantly I am keen to continue to grow, learn, develop my photography and have fun!




Camera Lucida – Roland Barthes

Camera Lucida: Reflections on Photography.

I have been reading this book on my recent commutes by train to Leeds (1 hr 40 mins each way, so plenty of time to become engrossed).  It is a thin volume containing a surprising amount of detail. The reading requires concentration in parts due to Barthes flowery style and the obvious translation from French. Barthes was a philosopher and essayist, not a photographer, therefore his book focuses mainly on the ‘Photograph’.

The main topic of the book focuses on what makes a photograph memorable, stemming from his Mother’s death and his attempt to find a ‘true likeness’ of her while searching through the family photographs. He notes that the search is difficult because he cannot separate out the like/dislike element of many images and so he concentrates purely on those photographs that move him. He says that an appealing image is based on the Studium – a combination of attractive composition and subject matter along with its history and social meaning. These images may appeal but they don’t linger in our memories.  The Punctum, on the other hand, Barthes says “is that accident which pricks me (but also bruises me, is poignant to me).”  It is the detail which separates the everyday image from the memorable one. He suggests punctum is what makes a specific image resonate, it is emotive, it has a personal connection. I referred to punctum in this image for my assignment Patterdale. The assignment was based on me re-visiting my Mum’s past by walking through the grounds of the hall where she and her family had arrived as refugees in 1940.


This image is punctuated by a hole, a prick, a highlighted area, but for me it is about that sudden gush of recall, recounting the fear of danger, hiding. I am now my Mum, an alien in a new country, peering through at the figures with apprehension, not knowing whether I have been observed. Am I safe? Are they friend or foe? The feeling is visceral, overwhelming and I move away quickly.

Barthes goes on to describe his desperate search for a likeness of his mother, one that he recognises showing how he remembers her. Eventually he does find a photograph of her, of when she was five years old. He calls it the Winter Garden Photograph. He says, “I cannot reproduce the Winter Garden Photograph. It exists only for me. For you, it would be nothing but an indifferent picture….for you, no wound”. For Barthes the image reveals her true personality, rather than the many other posed portrait images.

In the book Barthes  suggests that, in his experience, photographic portraits often lack authenticity and become a play act, a masquerade. He sees this as being a result of the four different narratives that take place when someone takes a photograph of someone else. He offers this; “In front of the lens, I am at the same time: the one I think I am, the one I want others to think I am, the one the photographer thinks I am, and the one he makes use of to exhibit his art”. In the present day trend of ‘Selfies’, I ponder whether Barthes’ theory can still apply, as the latter two narratives do not take place. I do believe that even with Selfies the subject in the image is still a masquerade, the subject is posing for the camera.

Barthes then discusses his claim that a photograph can represent death, that it portrays a doorway to the past and at the same time it is an indication of what will happen in the future, i.e. everybody dies! I didn’t focus too much on the death aspect of his writings as I found it quite odd and morbid.

To conclude, I have to say that I enjoyed the book, it was an easier read than I first thought it would be. Although I have to say that my dictionary did not leave my side! At times it felt like I was reading fiction – his account of  “searching for his Mother” was very moving and personal, if not a little melodramatic. His thoughts on studium and punctum are thought-provoking and relevant, I am now mindful of this with my own photography.

Barthes, R. (1993). Camera Lucida: Reflections on Photography. Vintage Classics. Penguin, Random House. London.

Late Photography

I read with interest David Campany’s essay “Safety in Numbness”, in particular his reference to Joel Meyerowitz and his photographic project of Ground Zero following 9/11. Meyerowitz was the only photographer to have been granted comprehensive access to the scene and the clean-up operation. Following a Channel 4 programme and international exhibitions, he went on to publish the photographs in a large format book Aftermath. Campany comments on how Meyerowitz’ imagery is not so much the trace of an event as the trace of the trace of an event.

Late photography, showing the aftermath of events, particularly in war-torn countries is often said to be beautiful, quiet and serene. Far removed from the scene of conflict where the pictures were taken.  Usually depicting buildings reduced to rubble, empty streets, injured people (often children) and discarded weapons and ammunition. Can these “late” as opposed to “as it happened” images have the same impact on the reader? Campany argues that video – whether manipulated or not, is the preferred method of capturing the moment and that photographs come later appearing in newspapers, magazines and on gallery walls.

This bronze sculpture, “Double Check” created by John Seward Johnson Jr. was so named for what it depicted, a businessman making final preparations before heading into a nearby office building. The familiar sculpture was situated in New York’s Liberty Park, across from the World Trade Centre.





After 9/11 the sculpture became an icon as New York photographer Jeff Mermelstein captured it in a very different context and covered in ash. So lifelike, rescuers approached the statue to offer assistance. Mermelstein’s usual subject is everyday life but this was not everyday life “I was on autopilot the day of the attack on the World Trade Centre. I don’t really remember finding that statue covered in debris…..I am not a war photographer, so this wasn’t an easy experience for me. The constantly shattering glass was terrifying and distracting….But because for years I have been taking documentary pictures of New Yorkers out on the sidewalks, there is a way in which I was prepared”. (Bjp Nov 15 “Quintessence of Dust”). This example of aftermath photography I think it works very well. One is drawn into the scene to search through the rubble and take a closer look at the man preoccupied with his briefcase. The image is a permanent and poignant reminder of the tragic event.

Aleppo boy, Omran

Omran Daqneesh, silent and in shock in the back of an ambulance, became the face of Aleppo overnight. The photographer, 27 year old Mahmoud Rslan, from Aleppo, took the picture of  5 year old Omran at the scene.

This image points to the fact that the power of war photography is still strong. It conveys a human story in war-torn Syria. The little boy has become a ‘poster boy’, a symbol of suffering. For me this image is so visceral, it transforms the ordinary (a little boy sat in a modern vehicle, in a clean plastic seat), into the extraordinary (he is covered in dirt and blood). Dazed and bewildered, he sits still and patiently, almost as though the experience is a daily occurrence for him. There is video coverage of this event showing Omran wiping the blood from his face, as he would if it were chocolate or ice cream.

I agree with Campany that photographs rarely break the news these days, but I still think late photography has a firm place in photojournalism. It can allow the reader to contemplate, much like one does on Remembrance Day or Holocaust Day. The stillness may remove some of the action and violence but the late photograph is an aesthetic response, its purpose is still to freeze a moment in time, but more remotely and provides an air of melancholy and poignancy as in the image above.

So, having read this section my view has not changed, if anything it has strengthened it. Aftermath and aesthetics photography for me is less harsh on the eye (and possibly the conscience). I feel drawn to the style of Late photography for the reasons given above.

References %5Baccessed 27th May 2016] [accessed 27th May 2016]
British Journal of Photography. “Quintessence of Dust”. November 2015. The Night Omran Was saved. By Andrew Katz. 26th Aug 2016.[accessed 30th October 2016]. [accessed 30th October 2016].

“Intermissions”: Edward Chambré-Hardman

OCA Study visit.

Edward Chambré-Hardman “Intermissions”
Liverpool Central Library  16th January 2016


“It is my intention that in viewing these portraits, the spectator becomes the common denominator between the three points in the process of observation.  The spectator can either choose to view the first image, or the second image independently, but the fact that the pair have been presented together can never be overlooked.   By viewing the images side by side and either traversing between the pair, or even trying to take in both simultaneously, there is an attempt to place the emphasis upon the physical gap in time.”  Keith Roberts 2015

This study visit was timely for me as I have just completed the “People and place” module.  It was also a good opportunity to meet with other OCA students to exchange thoughts and ideas. The project belongs to Keith Roberts OCA tutor and host for this event.

Intermissions It was the attractive and questioning exhibition poster that caught my eye and enticed me to attend the study visit.  It reminds me of a Bauhaus design (triangle), one is immediately captivated by the two contrasting images and attempts to make them one, drawing the eye to the apex of the triangle.


Edward Chambré Hardman, (1898-1988), is still perhaps best known for his photograph The Birth of the Ark Royal (1950).  However for around half a century from 1923 he and his wife Margaret ran a  successful commercial portrait studio, first on Liverpool’s Bold Street then on Rodney Street, now owned by the National Trust. Between 1923 – 1963 Hardman meticulously recorded the subjects he photographed in 11 Studio Registers and all the negatives were stored in biscuit tins – approximately 140,000. Fortunately Hardman was a hoarder and shortly after his death, his treasured collection was rescued from his home by Liverpool photographer Peter Hagerty.

P1110892Keith Roberts has commenced the extensive, fascinating job of digitising the collection and it is hoped that his exhibition, a portfolio of 80 photographs (40 pairs) will trigger memories and be recognised and identified by family, friends and members of the local community.  The “sitters”, many of which were servicemen and women, are shown in time-lapse, pre and post war.

I asked Keith what his driver was (apart from the fact that this was his PhD project), Curiosity? Commitment? Determination? He said that he hoped to redress the balance of Hardman’s work – commercial portraiture versus his better known landscape images. Keith stated he had become attached to the portraits, especially as people come forward in emotional recognition and add dimension to the image, he now feels as much engaged with the subjects as with the project as a whole.


Personally, I found it fascinating, a slice of social history. As the viewer, I was able to reflect on what could have happened to the subjects in the intervening period – the intermission. I was compelled to fill in the gaps, create my own narrative, many assumptions made as a result!


I particularly enjoyed listening to Keith explain how he had delved further, out of personal curiosity, he has returned to several of the locations where the portraits were originally taken and retaken the shots, bereft of their subjects. How wonderful to discover many of the places as they were back then, then visualise the grand event of the portrait sitting. This has sparked an idea for a future project!




A5 Tutor feedback and response

 Overall Comments

I commented that I had really enjoyed working on this assignment, having to produce, control and direct the project certainly stirred my creative juices. We spoke about how I have continued to incorporate the theme of the passing of time, using myself and a lifelong friend as ‘models’. It was noted that my planning and preparation was well documented in my Learning Log, but that I need to ensure I capture as much of my research as possible in my notes (not just in my head).

Inventive work! The tableaux-vivants are well constructed and the dresses are both amusing and interesting in the way they work as 2D images within the photograph (montage effect).

 I think currently the idea needs drawing in a little. A fifty-word summary of the essence of your idea will help shape your decision as to whether to use one image, or two (and which). We discussed this during the phone tutorial and I have since pulled together a summary. See final submission here.

Feedback on Assignment
General and specific comments on the Assignment (whether a practical or written assignment)

 Technical and Visual Skills

  • My image demonstrates detailed planning of the set and layout, lighting.
  • Visually, the models dresses give a montage effect – photo on photo.
  • Careful planning of the dress colours against the backdrop offered a good contrast. I explained that I didn’t shoot any close-ups because the surrounding scenery played an important part in the framing.
  • Tutor commented that the ‘friend and foe’ pairings highlight how space changes when friendship is compromised.
  • We discussed the importance of including a contact sheet in my preparation notes to show the full range of photographs I had to select from.

 The final selection needs to be made carefully, Janet, taking into consideration the combined conceptual and qualitative elements of framing, focus, backdrop (esp. sky).


  • It was agreed that I had been successful in portraying my intent – combining reality and fantasy/past and present.
  • I feel I have been bold and innovative and have shown evidence of gaining inspiration from a varied range of reading and research.

 A very creative interpretation of your idea. As discussed, you need to show an awareness of the politics of gender identity/representation, as this is implied almost accidentally within the work, albeit not the main intention. Is there a feminist aspect to the work? Did boys’ comics of the same era have pin-on clothes..? Being honest, I had not considered the feminist aspect, I was totally preoccupied with childhood memories and the fun of dressing up (even as an adult!).This has made me more aware of the need to involve and seek the views of others – in particular fellow students. I have now included further research in my blog as well as in the body of my assignment.

 Quality of Outcome

  • I stated that I was very happy with the final images in that they portrayed my intention.
  • I feel the narrative is loaded with symbolism in a conflicting scene and meets the criteria of the brief. – Expand on this in your learning log?
  • We discussed including more of my research material in the body of the assignment to acknowledge wider reading in relation in my subject.

Does the piece have a title? The quote you have selected works very nicely and reminds me of a refrain from the song ‘My Back Pages’, by The Byrds: ‘I was so much older then; I’m younger than that now’. I had decided to use the ‘Alice’ quote for the title because I think it does work and is very fitting.

Consider the ‘liminal’ connotations of the twilight skies, which add to the work’s temporal ambiguity (dusk? or twilight?) Philosophically this kind of sky is connected with notions of an “in between” place of “reality” and another world (or dimension – in this case, another time). Hegel’s ‘Owl of Minerva’ may be of interest if you wish to delve deeper. For my formal assessment submission, I have decided to use two images depicting twilight skies. I have read Peter Davidson’s wonderful book “The Last of the Light” and referred to it in my final submission. I will also look into “Owl of Minerva” with great interest!

As ever, my advice would be, take a step back from the work and try approaching it from the perspective of the ‘objective viewer’; this is your best vantage point for self-critique when making that final image selection. (“What am I looking at? What’s the message here?”) This is more applicable than ever when preparing to submit your work for assessment. Good advice, thank you.


  • I had worked through all the exercises and projects leading in to the assignment.

We discussed how I should include and capture more of my reading and findings in my Learning Log to show clear links to my work.

  • Research tab: My tutor recommended that I separate out visual and theoretical research study elements for clarity and ease of navigation. Actioned.

For context (sorry – we didn’t discuss this by phone) – a little research on, to show awareness of, the pictorial tradition of ‘tableaux vivants’; i.e. in definition and in contemporary practice (e.g. in the work of Tom Hunter or Jeff Wall). Barthes discusses the tableau-vivant in ‘Camera Lucida’, which you’re already familiar with. I have researched Jeff Wall and Gregory Crewdson.

Learning Log

  • I have included reflection on the assessment criteria in the assignment submission to tutor.
  • It was noted that I had amended my Blog to include only work for the current Context and Narrative course.
  • I have ‘hidden’ the menus from the side panel to avoid confusion and keep the blog simple.

 Suggested reading/viewing

. Check out feminist artists in relation to representation and identity – links to my assignment. Themes within this, I would suggest for future work, would be masquerade; parody; self-representation.
. The Photographers Gallery – Feminist Avant Garde of the 1970s. Particularly Martha      Wilson’s ‘A Portfolio of Models’ and Cindy Sherman’s ‘Bus Riders’. Themes: assumed identity; projected identity; masquerade;
·  Dawn Woolley – “The Substitute” – feminist angle and use of image-within-image.
·  Maria Kapajeva – “Interiors”
·  Erving Goffmann – “The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life”

Well done, Janet, on completing the course in good time and on having made such progress in your creative thinking along the way. You have developed the personal, conceptual threads, which emerged in your early assignments, to good effect – particularly through your essay and final assignment. Make sure your learning log does justice to your ideas & research.


A5 Formal assessment submission

“…but it’s no use going back to yesterday, because I was a different person then.”




On the approach to my 60th birthday there is something quite comforting reminiscing about my childhood. Lately, I’m hearing songs on the radio that take me back to “eeh, I remember when…”. But, as Alice ponders, when in Wonderland, “I was a different person then”. [1] 

Children easily fall out with each other over the simplest things, but quickly ‘make up’ again. My images portray two worlds, somewhere between the actual and the imagined, abstract yet object. The scene is surreal, overcoloured and amusing, models pose in (oversized, ill-fitting, cut-out) summer dresses, yet there is snow on the ground. In ‘Model of the Psyche’, [2] Carl Jung compares the perception of reality to the eye, implying that we can only see a limited number of things at a given time, likewise our experience of reality. So, what then, is real?  Twilight connotes the boundaries of light and darkness, then/now, child/adult, foe/friend. A familiar place by day surrenders to the mysteries of the night. Philosophically a twilight sky relates to notions of an ‘in between’ place of reality, another world (see Gregory Crewdson), or dimension – in my instance, another time. The space between the friends changes as they ‘make up’ again, connoting brevity of time. The flattened dresses are interesting in the way they work as 2D images – a montage effect, a metaphor for the layers of time. Peter Davidson writes: “As time passes, my student years in the 1970s begin to look like the last, fading decade of a sensibility of twilight”. [3] As the light faded and we finished our photo shoot, I pondered over the fact that ‘it will never be the same again’.


I gained inspiration from the wonderful work of Tim Walker. Walker’s fashion photography is theatrical, bordering on surrealist, every scene is fantastical.  “I think an intense enthusiasm to create a vision you have seen in your head makes you ignore certain obstacles” [4]. In my case the cold Cumbrian winter!

tim_walker_inside_out2002  1c

Graham Clarke says; We look at a photograph as recording time, as a historical record, whereas invariably it stops time and, in turn, takes its subject out of history. Every photograph, in that sense, has no before or after; it represents only the moment of its own making. [5] My Tableaux Vivants weave past narratives into present places creating ‘before and now’.

My images bring into question how our values change as we grow up, we conform to expectations and lose a little (or a lot) of ourselves in the process. Canadian inspirational speaker, Danielle La Porte asks, “Can you remember who you were, before the world told you who you should be?” [6] For a child it is acceptable to dress up as adults, fairies, dragons etc; ‘make believe’ becomes reality. Adults are expected to assume maturity, but fancy dress, theatre and film are all acceptable excuses for ‘dressing up’. Nietzsche says we have potential to overcome the barriers imposed upon us, “In every real man, a child is hidden that wants to play.” [7]

My photographs may be viewed in different contexts by others. Here are some additional thoughts and artists I considered.

I am encouraged that I am not alone with my musings in relation to paper dolls! Cindy Sherman’s, Doll Clothes see film clip here explores how identity is constructed and how behaviour and performance shape conceptions of gender. More here.

My doll clothes are a veneer, an attempt to disguise identity – albeit a thin disguise! Research led me to Erving Goffmann’s The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life” [8] . Goffmann discusses how we perform socially and how our ‘charade’ changes depending on the situation. I note that many photographers who masquerade as others are women – see here. This leads into thoughts on feminism and how women are cast as stereotypes. See Dawn Woolley and Maria Kapajeva.

Martha Wilson’s, A Portfolio of Models [9] explores the ways in which women are defined by society. She focuses on six identities  – goddess, housewife, working girl, professional, earth mother and lesbian. Wilson as the model, modifies her appearance to cast herself as each character.
martha-wilson-2  martha-wilson

For full details of my process see  A5 Planning and preparation. But in summary:
Inspiration came from recalling the excitement of receiving my weekly copy of Bunty comic, turning to the back page for the ‘Doll’s Cut-Out Wardrobe’. I was (still am) fascinated by fairy stories and escapism. For the assignment shoot, I enlisted the help of my longstanding friend, Lesley. We were the ‘dolls’ in my photographs.

Day one: We made the ‘clothes’ and prepared the props. I had already spent some time roughly sketching out my ideas and gathering all the materials. I wanted the outfits to suit the era of when I was a young girl, early 60’s.

3b-dress2     3


I chose mount board to make adult sized ‘cut-out’ clothes. We covered the board in fabric – to replicate making dressing-up clothes, kiddies wax crayons were used for colouring-in the handbag. The dresses were intentionally made to be ill-fitting and childlike. The fastening tabs on the dresses were exaggerated, as was the lipstick daubed on my lips and cheeks!

11  24

25   dsc_7238-copy


Day two: It had snowed overnight! I could have shot the scene indoors, but wanted to stay with my original plan to shoot outdoors with the trees. The snow added to the quirkiness of the scene – posing in summer outfits on a cold winter’s day! I hung some of my clothes from the tree branches to give a sense of a present day wardrobe – influenced by Tim Walker’s fashion images. As the light faded the clothes were less visible, adding to the fading memories theme.

Tim Walker The Dress/Lamp Tree 2002


I had carried out a practice run prior to the shoot, so setting up the camera equipment and props was straightforward. I had volunteered my husband David to act as grips and props man because I, as a ‘model’, lacked agility! I tried the camera in self-timer mode, but this proved limiting and lacked spontaneity. It was a bitterly cold afternoon and we needed quick fire shots. David offered to shoot the photographs under my direction, while I concentrated on composition and gestures/poses. The lighting was regularly repositioned to enhance the scene. As the light faded a third (halogen) lamp was introduced.

28 39

Here is a selection of images from the photo shoot.

The two images submitted represent memories of childhood depicted by the comical scene of adults performing as comic book children in a fantasy setting. The passage of time is portrayed in a surreal context utilising the twilight sky as a metaphor coupled with adult/child models, condensing the lengthy transition between childhood and adulthood into an image.

1. Carroll, L. (1958). Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. The Children’s Press. London.
2. Jung, C. The Model of the Psyche: Available from:    jung. [accessed 4th January 2017]
3. Davidson, P. (2015). The Last of the Light. Reaktion Books (1st edition). Scotland.
4. Walker, T. (2013). Tim Walker: A Fashion Fairytale. Available from: [Accessed 18th December 2016].
5. Clarke, G. (1997). The Photograph. Oxford University Press. London.
6. La Porte, D. Inspiration. Available from: [Accessed 4th January 2017].
7. Nietzsche, F. (1844). Quote available from: [Accessed 4th January 2017].
8. Goffmann, E. (1990) The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life. Penguin. London.
9. Wilson, M. (2008) A Portfolio of  Models. Available from: collections.

Sherman, C. Clothes Make the Woman. Available from: [Accessed 18th December 2016]

“The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life” Erving Goffmann

 “The Presentation of self in Everyday Life”
Erving Goffmann

I picked up this book from the library in relation to my final assignment – The Constructed Image. I read with interest the way Goffmann uses the metaphor of theatrical performance to explain how people present themselves in society. He claims that if we really want to understand people, we would need to ‘get backstage’ with them, because we only get to see others true feelings when they stop performing ‘front stage’. This implies that as ‘performers’ in society we can choose our stage (our social setting and surroundings) and our props (clothing, possessions, pastimes, etc) to give the performance that we want. Goffmann compares backstage as being the place where we choose our props, think how we want to be perceived by others and plan our performance to suit the situation. The front stage is where we carry out our performance.

If we put on these performances to give off impressions about ourselves and perhaps control what other people think of us, therefore we must judge others by where and how they carry their performances and the props they use. Mostly we plot our ‘act’ although there are times when we have to act on the spur of the moment – to impress, declare our status or to defend our role maybe. Is this improvisation also a performance? In Camera Lucida Barthes offers this; ‘In front of the lens, I am at the same time: the one I think I am, the one I want others to think I am, the one the photographer thinks I am, and the one he makes use of to exhibit his art. In other words, a strange action: I do not stop imitating myself, and because of this, each time I am (or let myself be) photographed, I invariably suffer from a sensation of inauthenticity, sometimes of imposture (comparable to certain nightmares).’  What Barthes is suggesting here is that, in his experience, photographic portraits often lack authenticity and become a play act,  a masquerade.

This made me think more deeply about what I am really conveying in my assignment with the cut-out doll clothes. Children and teens observe, follow and copy others from an early age. They are often uncertain of the kind of person they want to be, but (teens in particular) also are keen to be part of the ‘play’, they want to fit in and be accepted. Do they put on an act in the hope that the audience will react favourably? Depending on what they want to be, or who they think they are, it is easy to fall into stereotype or be driven by social media/advertising, peer pressure etc. That said, we all have a choice in adulthood and if we wish, we can choose to stand out from the crowd.

Barthes, R. (2000). Camera Lucida. Reflections on Photography. Vintage Classics. Penguin, Random House. London.
Goffmann, E. (1990). The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life. New Ed. Penguin. England.


Dawn Woolley “The Substitute”

Dawn Woolley – The Substitute

My artwork forms an enquiry into the act of looking and being looked at. I use photographs of objects and people to question issues of artificiality and idealisation. Referring to psychoanalysis, phenomenology and feminism I examine my own experience of becoming an object of sight and also consider the experience the viewer has when looking at me as a female, and a photographic object. 

Dawn Woolley’s self-portraiture work is not pursued in the traditional sense. For The Substitute, her work gives a really interesting example of a first-person point of view as she becomes literally the viewer as well as the object.  For the series she replaced her real self with printed life-size portraits of herself in various poses and photographed them in compromising positions with male subjects taken in real surroundings. Initially (some of) the photographs appear genuine, but on closer inspection they may be viewed as cut-outs. Woolley claims that “This wilful delusion is inherent to the medium of photography – the desire to look at a 2-dimensional photograph and believe in the integrity of the 3-dimensional objects that are suggested by the surface.” [1]

woolley-1 woolley-3  woolley-2

For me, by depicting her own body in this way Woolley is able to suggest her presence while confirming her absence – look but cannot touch. The work displays the female body as an object that can be picked up and used, however it does not exist in reality, therefore creating a fantasy. Woolley goes on to say, By producing artwork that establishes me as an object it could be argued that I reinforce stereotypical images of the female body.” 

So, I now reflect on how do I see myself? How much of my self-image is based on how I believe others see me? How much of it stems from how I would like others to see me?

1. Woolley, D. (2008). The Substitute. available from:[Accessed 20th January 2017]

Maria Kapajeva “Interiors”

Maria Kapajeva

Born 1976

Interiors 2012
London-based Maria Kapajeva produced a series Interiors  in 2012, it focuses on Russian women advertising themselves online for marriage. Posing half-naked in their homes, they mimic sexual poses most likely taken from Western mass media. Instead of showing the explicit detail of the women, Kapajeva has manipulated the images by covering the women’s bodies with patterns from the wallpaper or curtains from the same photograph, so they merge in with the background of their domestic environment. Appearing as cardboard cutouts, the poses are still easily recognisable, this method does thankfully, protect the identity of the women.

kapajeva-3  kapajeva-1  kapajeva-4

These women want to stand out and be noticed, but ironically they conform to stereotypes of sexual availability and domesticity by all posing in similar ways. Kapajeva highlights the women’s domesticity by literally blending their bodies in with their home environments. Kapajeva says,  I saw that these women were trying to be noticed by men via their profile; to stand out.  Ironically most adopted a pose which made them fit the stereotype of their culture even more. Even in these pictures I saw a culture where women are seen as part of the domestic landscape in a variety of roles (sexy wife, dutiful mother, housewife, cleaner etc) but not much more”. [1]    

The digital manipulation of these images portrays the women attempting to attract attention by being distinctive, but what they are actually doing is highlighting and blending into their domestic lifestyle. We all tend to like to be ‘different’, Kapajeva says that often ‘different’ means ‘better’.  The focus here is on women in modern society and how cultural and social stereotypes are represented via mass media.

1. Kapajeva, M. (2012). Interiors. Available from: [Accessed 20th January 2017]