Moving Home – Which Degree?

I’m excited, I’m focused, and occasionally a little anxious.

Although I don’t have a moving date as yet, it’s likely that I will be moving at the end of the month. I’m excited that I want to begin having contact with people, especially my peers and others in the creative community. Opportunity beckons.

It’s also getting close to a cut off point for deciding which course to study. Do I continue studying with the Open College of the Arts, or with the University for the Creative Arts. I’m very suited to distance learning, and I know that studying with the OCA provides me with as much opportunity as I wish to develop creatively, and flexibly. I’ve pulled off a coup by connecting with Laura Letinsky, and this tells me that I can create my own opportunities by studying this way. I value the tutors and the course material.

Studying with the UCA will give me access to a dark room, a vast library and work placements, as well as the opportunity to collaborate with other students in other fields. But… I’m getting these opportunities with OCA students, and as an undergraduate I can access any university library.

When I put it in black and white like this I can see that I have a preference. Next week I will speak with student services at the Open College of the Arts, and then meditate before making a decision.



Project 3 – Learning From Other Photographers

Brief:- Research point – Self reflection – Requirement Most visual artists learn from one another. Both historic and contemporary photographers and visual artists can teach you new things and by learning from them you can bring something new to the subject. So how do you learn from other photographers? There’s a tradition of ‘after’ painting, where an artist copies a master’s work – but in his own style rather than theirs. Pablo Picasso often did this for inspiration. Édouard Manet’s Olympia is slightly different in that it’s a critical response to Alexandre Cabanel’s The Birth of Venus and other such romantic and idealised nudes. Cubism’s visual experimentation was influenced by the work of Paul Cézanne, who had a ‘blocky’ style of painting in daubs of paint. Hannah Starkey’s photographs are clearly influenced by Jeff Wall’s tableau pictures without ever being copies. So really you take from the artist anything that interests you: the arrangement of characters in a scene, the pose of a figure, the way light and dark interact, the type of subject matter, the mixing of media, the visual strategy, etc… Research point – Self reflection – Throughout this course you’ve been introduced to the work of different photographers to help give you an understanding of the creative potential of photography. Now it’s time to question your own work and identify anything you think is lacking. You don’t have to be over-critical, just honest. Write down any areas in photography you need to develop. (Your tutor reports should give you some clues here.) Write what sort of photographs you want to take. Just note down keywords. Now look through a book like Hacking, J. (2012) Photography: The Whole Story, or Cotton, C. (2014) The Photograph as Contemporary Art (3rd edition) (both London: Thames & Hudson) and try to identify some photographers who have exactly the key elements that you want to attain or just things that interest you. It doesn’t matter if the photographer is contemporary or historic. Make a note of these key elements. Now research these photographers online and choose one key photograph to use in the next exercise.

There’s one area which glaringly stands out for me to work on. Lighting. Making use of lights to create an atmosphere, using spots, using ambient lighting or controlling background light, I need to develop these techniques. My tutor has recommended observing light in indoor settings and then trying to recreate it at home.

Now that I have a speedlight I am making slow inroads into understanding flash photography, and that’s going to be an ongoing process.


Mixed media art is also a growing interest. It’s something that’s been developing over the period that I’ve been studying. Exercise 3.5 Photography from text (here) was a good introduction. I’m part of an OCA collaboration group and have enjoyed collaborating with other artists. Toxic Shame (here) provided me with the opportunity to write and narrate prose as part of a collaborative project. People with Autism co-authored Autism: Out Of The Box (here) with me, a project in which I wrote the essay and encouraged the co-authors to produce accompanying photography or art for the essay.

A woman with autism is currently writing her story, and my role will be to support her to make photography which will accompany her writing. This is a role I wish to develop. The OCA collaboration group is on-going, and I have had initial contact with an artist in Australia who may wish to collaborate with me.

I’m very pleased to be studying Experimentation:- Still Life, which is part 4 of Foundations in Photography. This part of the course has opened up my creative potential. I made a sensory collage, just for fun, out of materials left over from the emulation exercise. Photomontage, collage and sensory collage all give me the opportunity to practice with lighting.

Lighting is the way forward. When I return from my travels I will look through my many books to find find photographers who inspire me, and who make creative use of lighting. I will then create some emulation based upon their work.

The piece I produced to emulate Laura Letinsky will be added next week when I return home.cof

Toxic Shame

Toxic Shame is a mixed media video created in collaboration by several Open College of the Arts Students. We study in different genres of the creative arts. It has been a very enjoyable process which has required thinking out of the box to respond to the work of other members submissions, based upon the theme for the month.

An Enjoyable Day – Catching Up, And Eating Disorder Support Group – Plants

Its rare that I drink alcohol but I have done today. Ive had YouTube on, listening to techno and trance through my headphones, and have caught up with a few things.

Earlier in the year I made a montage out of around 500 photoso of grafitti and street art. I wanted to make a photo video out of the photos, but never got around to it. I will publish as soon as I have permission from the group whose music I have used. They had previously given me permission to use one track, but as Ive used three I have emailed them for permission to use the additional tracks. Fingers crossed.

A few OCA students are involved in group collaboration in which we make a project, based upon an agreed theme each month. We use photography, Music, written and spoken word. Ive caught up and added a response to other members contributions.

I have also attended to online 12 step eating disorder meetings over the past two days. I cant tell you that I want to recover, but its certainly given me hope seeing people who are in recovery and enjoying life without food interfering with the quality of their lives. It’s nice to have some hope. Ill just keep attending the meetings and let nature take its course. There’s a mens meeting shortly, so I’m going to pop into that.

Today has been enjoyable and I’m pleased that I have achieved so much. It’s nice to have caught up with some things.

When my wife and I split up (many years ago) she managed to kill my weeping fig. It wasn’t deliberate, just a bit neglectful. She also managed to kill her pear tree at the same time. I have wanted one since then, but haven’t put too much effort into it. Fortunately I found one in Sainsbury’s a few ago. I then decided to buy a fruit bearing fig tree, and also couldnt resist the orange/kumquat hybrid. As I dont have a garden I will be growing the fig tree indoors. So I have bought a grow tent, and led UV lighting system. I dont intend to keep them in their for ever, 3 months for the weeping fig, and 6 months for the fruit bearing one. Just to give them a boost, and strengthen them before spring when they can return to their natural growth cycle. Its wonderful to have plants around the home again.

Michelle recently rooted a pineapple and she has inspired me to try the same with orange, lemon, cherry and also pineapple. I’m a little impatient. No roots after three days and I’m worried that they wont root. Patience Richard.

Anyhow, wishing you a happy weekend. Take care and have fun.


Collaborative Photo Essay About Living With Autism – Learning About Portrait Photography

It has been a pleasure to have 9 collaborators on the photo essay that I am writing about living with autism. The photos and accompanying words are great. The challenge for me is researching autism, living with autism, and writing an article that recognises the medical model but has more focus on the people.

Although autism is often a disability for people who have it, that’s a minor part of what I want to present. The real disability is how society reacts to people with autism, and also de-humanises people once they have been labelled and put into a neat box. More over the next few days.

A point of learning for me with regard to collaboration is Authorship. I’m putting the essay together but that doesn’t make me the author or the owner of the work. We have agreed where I will publish the essay, my collaborators have shared their photos, writing and how to credit and link. Once I have written the article (aiming for monday), I will then send it out for their review and feedback, along with alterations where necessary. The key is to ensure that we all retain Authorship and ownership of the essay.

What have I learned about portrait photography? Relationship, rapport and repetition.

That’s the buzz words covered, ha ha.

Repetition is key. The way to improve is practice.

Rapport. It’s hard to build rapport if you are taking photos solely for the purpose of improving your skills. I have certainly found it easy to ask someone if I can take their photo when something about them interests me.


This is now leading to building a relationship. Through reading about portrait photography and reviewing other photographers I had the confidence to try something different today. I asked a man to look through the lens, into my face, and look angry. I asked him to look passed off with me for taking his photo.

It’s another step forward and I can develop this into exploring other emotions with other people.


Review – Anthony Luvera – Residency 2006 – 2011

This project fascinates me because it is about collaboration. Luvera did not take the photos, he invited his subjects to make the photos, after he had spent time teaching them how to.

  • Project followed on from Photographs and Assisted Self-Portraits 2002 (ongoing)
  • Inspired by Belfast Exposed Photography
  • Explored ideas around ethics and collaborating when making documentary photography
  • Regularly visited The Welcome Centre, which is a hub for people without permanent accommodation
  • Helped to prepare and serve meals
  • Got to know people and explained his project
  • Gave people cameras so they could make photos of things that interested them
  • Met with them regularly
  • Taught them how to use large format camera and how to take assisted self-portraits
  • Doing so blurred the boundaries between subject and photographer
  • Went with participants to the areas that mattered to them
  • Participant set up equipment and used remote shutter release
  • After this he used sound interviews to discuss the experience and their photographs
  • Self representation provides a documentary record that shows the person behind the local authority statistics that are kept about people
  • A reflection of individuality
  • Not necessarily a reflection of reality, as the director or artist involved in these kind of projects have an impact upon image production and representation

As someone with an interest in sociology I feel very grateful that my tutor suggested that I take a look at this project. It raises the question of how I can involve my subjects more with the creation of their photo. There is also the need to consider who has control of the image, how and where it will be displayed and the right to remove consent at a later date.

A person may agree to their photo being made use of for a project, but what should I do if they then decide that they no longer want their image to be used? Can they make use of their photo themselves? I have not used a model release form for any of the people who I photograph. I do gain verbal consent, and discuss how I will make use of the photo, but is that enough? I certainly think that I should begin to explore model release forms, and would also need to consider the wording. Does the form need to be generic or project specific? is there an opportunity to edit a basic form with a subject, so that it can be relevent to them?

Certainly food for thought, especially in relation to how I can get people more involved in the creative process as a collaborator. This really interest me.


Luvera, A; 2002 (ongoing); Photographs and Assisted Self-Portraits; Online at: (accessed on 09/10/2017)

Luvera, A; 2011; Residency (2006 – 2011); Online at: (accessed on 09/10/2017)

Belfast Exposed Photography; Online at: (accessed on 09/10/2017)

The Welcome Organisation; Online at: (accessed on 09/10/2017)

Also Viewed

Seymour, Tom; 2015; Belfast Exposed – A Photography Gallery That Crossed the Sectarian Divide; UK; 1854 Media Ltd; Online at: (accessed on 09/10/2017)

How Does A Photographer Create Intimacy At Events Photography?

Despite my anxiety about being outside and being around people, I enjoy events photography and in the long-term i see it as being the focus of my planned photographic career. Not all events photography involves people but some of it does.

I follow a professional events photographer Alan Barnett, and the intimacy that he creates is apparent in the majority of his photographs. He demonstrates a collaboration between photographer and photographed.

I have been able to create intimacy in the homelessness project that I am undertaking, but I feel that’s because I am an insider. Having previously been homeless I find it easy to sit on the floor and chat with the people I’m photographing, to give them a space to be heard. I value them and that comes across in their photos.

But how do you create a connection with people when you’re an outsider? When you’re at an event to do a job? To fulfill a professional contract?

Something that I realised at Northern Pride is that I need to talk with people more freely, and that’s something that I  struggle with. I felt awkward and clumsy, although it did become easier as the day progressed.

Image: The Portrait, is my next piece of coursework. I have read through the content and it terrifies me. I’m a hermit, I don’t live close to my friends, most days I get out for an hour – at a push. I have no connections in my community because I’m scared of people.

I’m going to have to push myself to complete this assignment. Technically I feel competent. I already make use of the technical skills that are addressed in this section.

It’s the people part i struggle with, and you can’t make portraits without people. I need to work with people as an outsider to complete Image: The Portrait, as I don’t see my friends that often. If I’m honest I will develop more as a photographer if I undertake these projects with people whom I don’t know.

Being kind to myself, being patient, taking my time. These will be required for success. Oh yes, and to remember the exhilaration I felt after shooting at pride.



Barnett, Alan; 2017; Online at (accessed on 11/09/2017)