Anorexia – Exercise 3.4 – Documenting Change

I would like to request critique for this piece of work. I like the concept, but I am really not happy with the result. If you could let me know what doesn’t work and why, how you think this could be improved, what you think of the concept, and ideas on how to approach this differently. I am going to re-shoot this image so that it can be a part of a larger body of work that I am producing about eating disorders. Many thanks for those that are able to provide critique.


I find that the image is too flat, laying down on the back is probably OK, but I believe that I should work with models of several sizes so that the clothes are not flat on the floor, but have some life to them. I’m not comfortable with the legs and the upper torso probably needs to be included.

To create a feature image for this post I have cropped centrally and I prefer this version. What do you think?


Not perfect but if I were to include the chest it would help I think.

This has taken me a long time to create and the reason for this has been my lack of insight in the shooting and developing process. The individual photos of clothing were taken laying flat on the floor. Although I used a tripod I didnt mark a grid of where the clothing should be which meant making use of the telephoto for some and not for others. Some of the clothes were larger and also out of position. This made developing difficult because I had to both resize and warp certain items.

Shooting on a carpet with a similar tonal range – what a nightmare that created for me with Photoshop. The quick selection tool and the magnetic lassoo tool were both ineffective because I had shot without an opposing or white background. They both ripped the edges to pieces. Next I tried the background eraser tool, and being a bit of a perfectionist I worked in fine detail around the edges, which was a little over the top and took a long time to complete for ten layers (each item of clothing, face, left arm, right arm etc were all individual layers). My lack of knowledge in relaation to the background eraser was non existent and I onle researched how to make the most of it on the last layer.

The positives have been-

  1. valuing my idea whilst knowing I need feedback on how I can improve upon what I have made.
  2. Creating a piece of work with the knowledge that it was going to need to be re-worked – a new way forward for me, allowing uncertainty but progressing anyway.
  3. Learning how to use the background eraser.
  4. Understanding about the need for contasting backgrounds and grids for laying out each photo in the same space.
  5. Continuing to take photos for upcoming learning exercises, and remaining focused on getting this piece ready for feedback.

Certainly not my best piece of work, but with your feedback who knows what the future holds.

Although the brief for this exercise asks us to produce a tryptich (which I’ve previously done for this exercise – here), I wanted to push the limits to explore documenting change by producing one image. Eating disorders are something that I’m exploring with photography and will continue to do so. It a theme thats dear to my heart, and I believe that the physical and emotional changes can be documented in one photo with consideration, time, practice and your critique.

13 Replies to “Anorexia – Exercise 3.4 – Documenting Change”

  1. Richard, I love the concept here that you are building. It shows a complete cycle. I understand the fact that perhaps you are not too happy with the image so even though I really like what you have done, I will perhaps try and put across some points that might help you in ideating this better.

    I relate to this instantly because I am aware of this project that you are building upon. My question is what if someone is viewing this image as an individual image without any previous knowledge of the concept that you are working on, would it become difficult for them to decipher what the meaning of this image is? Would they automatically relate it to the disease and its consequences? I raise this because I have felt this and critiqued by my tutor on this – he said and I quote – “If the image was untitled, would your audience understand your thought process behind it? Its ok If they don’t, as the whole point of photographs, is the varying interpretations that it gets but in your case you specifically are trying to say something so there is a possibility that it might not be correctly read.

    Having said that I think it’s a brilliant concept and the whole thing of what you are trying to do is coming across to me. What I do feel is the flatness of it is what is bothering you. If you were to make a heap of various food products as the background instead of the cemented grey background that you have chosen, would it translate your concept better? My first visual impact of the image for a split second was that it was actually a cake and RIP was written with icing. That, in fact, works better here as a concept for Bulimia, do you think?

    Another thing that comes to my mind is the bloated stomach that you have shown here – what if you show that exploding and food coming out of it to write the words RIP? I know it sounds gross but I think that could work also. Somewhere food needs to be a part of this. So the strong points of this image are:
    1. The bloated stomach
    2. The man lying flat dead.
    3. RIP which shows the eventual consequence.

    The red is the most prominent point where your eyes go first. Is that your intention? Have you done it purposely? If not, perhaps you could consider creating an area of interest or effect, where the eye is taken first, as per what is the most important part of the composition that you want to take the viewer’s attention to.

    The transparent layers that you have included here are definitely working so that is something that you should include in your final work.

    Since also the brief says a sequence of photographs for this – maybe you could also consider 3-4 images to portray the entire cycle. These are a few points that come to my mind. Am not sure if am making sense but as a viewer, these are merely suggestions that you may want to consider if they fit within your vision.

    Definitely a wonderful concept, One which might appear comical in the first instance but has the impact of a great narrative through a single image. I will stop my blabbering here. I hope I have been a little helpful. Best wishes Richard. Your work is exceptional.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thankyou Archna. So much to consider from a great critique thankyou. The points that immediately stand out are – the stomach is completely sunken and my layering and transparency has clearly hidden that. If I bring this back closer to 100 percent then the concave stomach would then be the initial point of focus, once the red is altered as per below.

      I get what your saying about the single image not being understood, and without a title and a viewer having no concept of a larger body of work then they would have to work hard.

      Yes the trousers – I could use the colour replacement tool to make them blue and use the same tool to make the back layer of trousers red.

      Although I appreciate your comment about bulimia, this is a piece to reflect anorexia, and once I’ve brought the stomach to the fore it will help considerably. And I can definitely change the background and use almost empty crockery and food items such has a half eaten apple on a large pristine plate, a half drunk cup a soup etc.

      Lots for me to gratefully digest.


    2. I also meant to add that I have previously completed the photo as per the brief, but I had wanted to experiment how change could be documented via a single image. Although I’d previously reflected upon it in my learning log I didn’t mention it in this post and I should have. I’ll amend it later.


  2. The concept is a really good one. I also think as an ongoing project there is lots of scope to experiment and explore different techniques like you have started here. That’s part of the learning process— and the challenge ! I’m really not that confident with PS but you have gained such a lot of knowledge whilst doing this and as such are aware of what to do to improve your post-processing skills. I wonder what a totally plain background might look like ? I too prefer the cropped version and definitely stick to colour for the project as that really stands out and creates contrast between the different size clothing .
    Looking forward to seeing the next instalment.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thankyou Judy. I agree that keeping the colour is important and that the background does need to change. I will try the background in a few ways, plain, mown grass, and build upon Archnas idea for the background as well. The learning is definitely fun and rewarding. Photoshop isn’t my favourite software, but I can see that I will need to make more use of it as my study continues.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Yes, I agree that your concept is very good and relevant. Re the image, are you challenging the belief that people with anorexia are extremely thin because I too connected it with bulimia as Archnasingh mentions. The image that more immediately comes into my head is of someone who is extremely thin looking into a mirror and seeing someone who is obese.
    Another good aspect is that you are showing a male figure (I think) which highlights that they also suffer from anorexia.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Wow, the wow is about how someone who is extremely thin looking in the mirror and seeing themselves as obese is very pertinent. It’s a very common experience for people with anorexia. I hadn’t intended to show that at all, hadn’t even considered that, but that could help with regard to the background difficulties. I could photograph a full length mirror and then create a drop Shadow of the clothing so it would look like an individual laying on or with their back to the mirror. Yes the figure is male and my exploration of eating disorders will be from a male perspective. Thanks Catherine.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Hello Richard, this a really interesting and complex rendering of anorexia, that I believe captures the concept very well indeed.

    I have taken some time to consider the image and rather than suggest changes describe first what I see now …. a single image that is headed “anorexia”.

    What I see is a very thin person who is fading fast and as a result likely to shortly RIP, hence the background of the tombstone, and the lettering. I can see why some may interpret a swollen abdomen, because the open shirt forms a circular shape. But the rib cage is prominent, the abdomen collapsed inwards, the muscles of arms and legs wasted, and the eye alive but deepset in hollow sockets. The colourful clothing, of ever diminishing sizes emphasises the process of continuous weight loss, and the colour perhaps a “celebration” of power and control over that weight loss. Simultaneously there is a suggestion of fragmentation and disintegration, perhaps mental as well as physical, by the head of the person partly hidden in the hood around the head.

    On a large screen the human frame is luminous, emphasising fading, whilst the head is disconnected from the luminous frame. The flat body is to my eye already slightly elevated from the tombstone suggesting another existence altogether.

    So, having given these albeit personal impressions what would I change? Frankly not a lot… but two suggestions… first change the shape of the open shirts revealing the abdomen to emphasise the sunken nature, and second perhaps change the emphasis of the lighting away from the abdomen to the head, and especially the eye that is looking directly at me, in a weary but expressive manner. I would also use head and shoulders for the feature image. Of course, this is my interpretation, and mine alone.

    Finally, I would suggest no need to stick to the exercise brief about change if you don’t want to, provided you explain the decision. Your complex image does the job perfectly for me. An amazing and powerful rendition. I look forward to the complete work on eating disorders.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I really appreciate you reading the picture back to me from your perspective as a viewer. It helps me a great deal. The lighting of the eye, adding the shoulders and bringing the belly out are certainly things that I can do. Thankyou.


  5. I have a couple of comments which may be irrelevant because I have not taken all your intentions on board.
    1) I do not like the head in the first photo.. I am not sure what you can put in place. Maybe you have seen it for your self which is why for the second photos.
    2) The limbs look far too healthy. Getting the result of anorexia would be difficult. Stick drawings?

    Maybe the second photo is much better as it deals with these comments.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The second photo was purely so that I could control the crop for the feature image rather than let WordPress do it, and as it then becomes an envelope the balance was to include the lettering.

      My reasons for prefering the second image is because I’ve struggled to blend the parts of the body into the background in the manner that I want to. I needed to make the post so I could gain insight into how to develop it, it’s not easy to post Photography that I’m displeased with


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