My Life In Props

Brief:Take a look around the place you live. In what ways does the place and the objects in it say something about you? You may not have built it, but you probably chose most of its contents, painted walls, carpeted floors, etc. You placed every item in that space. This is personal miseen-scène. In staged photography you’re telling a story, a fiction that may have a connection to something real or true, however staged it is. All movies, plays and fictions, however far they depart from everyday reality, have a kernel of truth in them.

This series of photos is an exploration of personal property and ‘props’ that signify part of my life and personality. Although the brief here is directing me to consider the importance of props in staged photography, this is equally as important when making formal portraits. Items that are around my house must have some relevance to me because they would not be here if they had little value to me. When I am in a position to make a formal portrait of somebody, I can see that there is a need to speak with them, get to know their personality, ask them what items would enhance a photograph made of them, and maybe even explore their home. A good example of this is ‘Interiors’ by Jayne Taylor.

Taylor, J; 2009 ; Dawn, Tufnell Park, London;Fig. 1. Dawn, Tufnell Park, london (2009)

Taylor photographed her subjects within their home environment using a 3D stereoscopic camera. Taylors portraits use a lot of props and appear staged managed. Her subjects are relaxed in their natural environment and surrounded by the objects that express their personality.

My Props

I have included my six photos for the mosaic from the photographs I took this morning, but all twenty four are in the slide show. These were made using my Huawei P10 smart phone. Only three were developed in Lightroom using auto tone and the rest I have left as shot.

What is immediately obvious to me is that I value colour, crystals and books. Of course I am naturally aware of these things, but to see it so clearly in the photographs of my ‘props’ property drives this home. There are many times when I doubt my creativity, but I have to say that this exercise has shown me how important creativity is to  me, and how creative I am.

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Taylor, J; 2009; Dawn, Tufnell Park, London [steroscopic light box]; AT: (accessed on 04/06/2018)

Review – Polly Apfelbaum

Oh my gosh, I am so happy right now. I have discovered an artist that I feel very excited about, more so that any of the photographers that I have discovered through Foundations in Photography.

Apfelbaum works with a variety of media, but I am particularly drawn to he hand dyed crushed velvet installations, where she makes an excellent use of colour and space. Walking through one of her exhibitions must be such a treat for the soul.

Apfelbaum,-P;-(2016);-Face-(Geometry)-(Naked)-Eyes-[mixed-media]Fig. 1. Face (Geometry) (Naked) Eyes; (2016)

The amount of space within the gallery strikes me as much as the colour, I believe that they compliment each other and I feel both peaceful, energetic and joyful. The composition of this photo makes me feel as if I am being hugged and safely contained. I can imagine standing where the camera is and not wanting to move.

During an interview by Sarah Miller Meigs, Apfelbaum says “My issues are color, surface and form – painterly issues, but the work unfolds in space… I like to react to the space of the gallery, and work with the large scale and site specificity, reacting to the architecture.” (Miller Meigs, S; 2014). The development of her installations has many processes, but the most important to her is that she spends time in a space, hours even, just observing the light, space and boundaries. She places small pieces of fabric on the floor in her studio and then she dies them. Her installations may include an addition of ceramics that hang from the ceiling or paintings on the wall, and fabric and paint that flows down the wall and across the floor. (Widewall; 2013 – 2018).

Erasing Tracing Racing Paint; Apfelbaum, P and Nelson, D; Michael Benevento, Los Angeles, CA, March 12 - May 17 2016Fig. 2. Erasing Tracing Racing Paint; (2016)

To attend an Apfelbaum exhibition at a gallery gives you the opportunity talk through her creations, and interact with the light and space that’s available, an immersion rather than a viewing. She says “It’s important to me that people have to move through the works so the spectator activates it and participates in the experience. As you move, the color and the nap of a fabric change and the work plays a lot with light.” (Marcoci, R; 2007).

Her work has been described in many ways, as art, pop, sculpture, feminism, installation, craft, photography, post minimalism, performance and abstract (Miller Meigs; 2016; Widewalls; 2013 – 2018; Ebony; 2017). One of her abstracts is of particular interest to me because I saw a photograph of it without a title, and I couldn’t get my head around it. Did it represent clothes laid out in an orderly fashion? A journey with other people who you meet along the way? Rigid thinking that constrains creativity? Although Apfelbaum had a very specific representation with this installation, she is glad that her work is open to interpretation, and each viewer can bring their own unique personality into the gallery.

Apfelbaum, P; (1992); The Dwarves Without Snow White, The Blot on my Bonnet, Amy Lipton Gallery, New York, NY [boxes and lids, stretched crushed velvet]Fig. 3. The Dwarves Without Snow White; (1992)

Speaking during an interview with Brooklyn Museum she discusses feminism and gender in relation to this piece and how she drew upon the work of other women that had created installations. With regard to the abstract nature pf this piece, there are eight boxes and only severn dwarves (re the title Without Snow White), because “If Snow White got her act together she could have a box. But at the time you had this very Disney world. The dwarves were absolutely much more emotional and more fun, having a great time.” (Polly Apfelbaum, 2008). This highlights for me gender roles in relation to relaxation time and leisure for the man that went out to work, and the subservient woman whose role around the house didn’t stop at 5pm, but continued once the man got home and after the children had gone to bed. This division of labour and leisure, privilege and unworthiness have become so ingrained that even with a demand for change, the progres is very slow.

I find these insights into feminism very revealing. I have been aware of the societal construct and reinforcement of gender roles for many years, but it’s always pertinent to have a new perspective.

I would like to finish with one last photo of Apfelbaums art, and I do so because it highlights the intensity, creativity, time and dedication that she flows from her intuitive spirit. This piece is made of 1040 individual pieces of fabric that are hand dyed so that the colours include all of the Sennelier 104-color dye chart. This is not made once and then sown together, rather, each time she has an exhibition, she goes along to the space and gets a feel for how she can best present, then uses her intuition to re-lay “Blossom” onto the floor. Each installation will have three or four variations of the same piece which has different colours that are more dominant from piece to piece, the patterns change through out because of this. She does not make use of assisstants and performs this herculean task alone. By observing the two images below we can see how the lighting, floor and colour of the walls all allow Blossom to be a dynamic, changing and living work of Art

Apfelbaum, P; (2000) ; Blossom [Synthetic velvet and fabric dye] Collections of Museum of Modern Art, New YorkFig. 4. Blossom (2000)

Apfelbaum, P; (2000) ; Blossom Powerpuff, D_Amelio Terras, New York, NY. 2000Fig. 5. Blossom (2000)



Figure 1;  Apfelbaum, P; (2016); Face (Geometry) (Naked) Eyes [mixed media]; AT: (accessed on 11/05/2018)

Figure 2;  Apfelbaum, P and Nelson, D; 2016; Erasing Tracing Racing Paint at the  Michael Benevento, Los Angeles, CA, March 12 – May 17 2016; AT: (accessed on 11/05/2018)

Figure 3; Apfelbaum, P; (1992); The Dwarves Without Snow White, The Blot on my Bonnet [boxes and lids, stretched crushed velvet] at the Amy Lipton Gallery, New York, NY; AT: (accessed on 11/05/2014)

Figure 4; Figure 5; Apfelbaum, B; 2000; Blossom [Synthetic velvet and dye] at MoMA, Manhatten; AT: (accessed on 1/05/2018)

Figure 5; Apfelbaum, B; 2000; Blossom [Synthetic velvet and dye] at the D’Amelio Terras, New York, NY; AT: (accessed on 11/05/2018)



Ebony, D; 2017; Polly Apfelbaum, New York, at Alexander Gray Associates; Online AT: (accessed on 11/05/2018)

Marcoci, R; 2007; [interview by author March 4-June 11, 2007]; “COMIC ABSTRACTION: Image-breaking, Image Making. “The Museum of Modern Art Interviews, March 4-June 11, 2007; London; Thames and Hudson: pp. 42-49; Online at: (accessed on 11/05/2018)

Miller Meigs, S; 2014; [Interview by Author 2014]; “Q and A with Polly”; Online AT: (accessed on 11/05/2018)

Polly Apfelbaum [interview online]; Brooklyn Museum (2008) 4.26 mins At: (accessed on 11/05/2018)

Widewall;  2013 – 2018); Polly Apfelbaum/ Polly Apfelbaum, United States 1955, Installation, Painting; Online AT: (accessed on 11/05/2018)


A Potential For The Hobbit

I’m not to sure which one of the characters this could be, either a non-binary Hobbit, someone from Rivendell, or I could create the wood elves as non-binary people. I couldn’t get the face right so thats for another day.


Kirby – Graphics Tablet Practice

having decided that I am going to create a photography sequence based upon the Hobbit, in which I will mix photos of landscape with characters that I draw, I figured it was good to get a graphics tab and practice.

I am not good at drawing, so this will be fun. Today I have had my first practice shot. I followed a YouTube video by Izzy from StevRay Bro, and here is my result which I created in Photoshop.


Far from perfect, but I am pleased with the result for a first attempt. I will have no excuse not to create my own characters now.


Exercise 2.12 – Pixel Painting


Steaming Happy – by Richard KeysExercise 2.12 Pixel Painting

This has been a lot of hard work, over two days, a lot of fun, a lot of frustration – and you know what? I am a happy bunny. Photoshop is definitely required for this kind of exercise, it can’t be done in Lightroom. Creating art with multiple images, converting to PNG, free transform, layer mask, warping, hiding the layer mask and then revealing with the paint brush – its something that I am not very skilled at and find frustrating. However, I have done it. I’ve read magazines, watched YouTube tutorials, and here is the final result after around 17 hours of work.

Working with layers, moving them, putting them in the right place is something that I have improved at, as has using the background eraser tool so that I can blend layers into each other, such as the train and the bridge coming out of the bottle.

Photos for first draft

Step one involved a free transform of the train (above), the quick selection tool and eraser. I created a larger canvas so that I could rotate the train so that it pointed slightly upwards. My initial plan was to create a scene where it was leaving the tracks and beginning to fly. The flame involved – menu select > colour range, then the add to selection and mousing over the desired colours, messing around with the fuzziness so that I got the edge that I wanted, then take away from desired colours so that I could eliminate the background. Once I had got the flames I tidied up the background with the eraser, saved as a png, then copied the png into the train picture. Free transform, warp, persective, and placed them where I wanted them at the front of the train. The flowers were done via the same process.

First Draft

Exercise 2.12 Pixel Painting

This morning I got my watercolour pencils out, and drew the viaduct, and photographed it (along with the bottle). I processed them in Lightroom using the adjustment brush tool, increased the exposure and the whites to maximum, sent them over to Photoshop, quick selection tool, delete the background, and then save as png files, and copied them into the first draft. The background eraser again was useful, and I reduced the hardness of the brush, so that I could slowly brush them into the bottle.

Photos for second draft

The sky was the more complicated part because it involved using the layer mask. In the first layer I changed the curves because I wanted a little contrast in the clouds, once I had finished this I pressed Ctrl J – to copy the layer. Then dragged the mask into the rubbish bin and created a new mask for hue and saturation. I love the colours. Following this I tried to use a brightness and contrast mask, but it didn’t work out.

Second Draft


The flames look out of place and their lines are too sharp, so I decide to tidy them up. I have tried to use the Photoshop render clouds filter on a previous occasion and I did not like the result. The process is – menu layer > new > layer > then press shift f5 to create a fill layer, change the contents drop down to 50% grey and set the opacity to 50%, press ok.

**Go to the menu filter  > render > clouds. Menu edit > free transform, you can now change the profile, size and shape of the rendered clouds so they are in the position that you would like them. However, if you now right-click on the render clouds you are given other options, so that you can warp, distort and change perspective.

Next its menu layer > layer mask > hide all – and this means that you can now use the white paint brush to slowly paint in the clouds where you want them. It doesn’t really create clouds, but I have seen others use it to add mist to landscape photos with very good effect.

Photos for third draft

The clouds didn’t work for me (yet again) so I opened up a photo of a steam train, cloned the sign out, erased the background, so that all I had left was steam, then converted to png, and copied it into draft two. Then instead of render clouds, I used the same process (from **above) but with the steam. Brushing it back in took a while but it was worth it. I managed to reduce the harsh lines of the flames, and have the thicker part of the steam at the front of the train. I also cloned out the white line between the train and the viaduct, and spot healed marks on the neck of the bottle.

Third Draft

Exercise 2.12 Pixel Painting

The sky is very grainy and I would prefer it to be smooth. I went to menu filter noise > reduce noise, and in the drop down I changed the strength to ten and the reduce colour noise to 56%, returned back to the menu filter > blur > blur more, and then brushed that over the sky layer. I then repeated the filter blur process. The file has been saved as a psd so that I can go back and change any part of this piece of art in the future, but have also also saved it as a JPEG. Before saving a creative piece of work that has layers as a JPEG, you need to go to –  menu layers > flatten image and then ctrl alt shift and s to save for web (save for web embeds the colour profile).


Steaming Happy by Richard KeysExercise 2.12 Pixel Painting




Exercise 2.5: An Identikit Portrait

Brief: In this project you’ll explore two different ways of engaging with the portrait genre.You’ll need at least two people for this exercise, but four would be ideal. Prepare a plain background to photograph them against, preferably near a window for the light. Frame the portraits equally close and with a shallow enough DoF to throw the background out of focus. Aim at a ‘deadpan’ expressionless face filling the frame like a large oval shape. Upload the portraits and process them in exactly the same way so that they fit together well. You don’t want one high contrast and the other low contrast, for example. Print out the best portraits about A5 size. If you’ve made only two portraits, make two prints of each face. Fold each portrait into a squarish ‘tube’ and stick it together, so that you have the forehead on one side, the eyes on another, then the nose and mouth on the other sides. Like the one on the right: Now combine them together to make an ‘identikit’ face. Re-photograph in different combinations. How could you develop this? Make a family photo-fit? Make boxes or a photographic Rubik’s Cube? Photography isn’t just about a flat image; it’s an artefact you can move around, cut up, paint on, re-assemble and integrate with other artefacts.

This has been lots of fun and it really hasn’t felt like study. I have completed this task in Photoshop by opening multiple portraits and using:- Layer from background, copy, paste, eraser, and resizing and rotating by selecting a layer and pressing Ctrl T.




Street Photography


Do You Have Experience of Abstract Overpainting of Photography?

I have just started a photography project on Mentally Illness – Mental Wellness, and as some of the photography is abstract I want to experimenting with overpainting in the style of Gerhard Richter.

I intend to make a composite image of 3 photos, reduce opacity to 70% and print them onto watercolour paper. Then overpaint in an abstract fashion (not colouring in the photo). My thoughts are to experiment with water colour pencils or oils.

If you have any experience I would love to hear what you learned, what didn’t work and what worked well.

left-imageMuseum Visit (2011)

Refererence (accessed on 09/07/2017)