Exercice 4.2 – Constructed Imagery

Brief:- Traditional still life presents a small-scale space to explore constructive photography. But still life doesn’t have to be bowls of fruit and vases of flowers. You can place any object or combination of objects in any setting. And both can be constructed. It may be useful to think of still life as having two key elements – object(s) and setting – and go wherever your imagination takes you with them. Setting/background Choose a space that you can work with over time. You don’t need the traditional wall and table yet, just a cleared space. What does your space present you with? A wall? A floor? A corner? Put your camera on a tripod and aim it at this empty space. Now add to this space one large flat object. It could be a sheet, a painting turned back to front, an up-turned table or a large piece of paper stuck to the wall. Don’t place anything in the middle of space to act as an ‘object’ but rather compose your setting with surfaces, colours and textures. Have a look in the viewfinder. Note every element in the frame: the way surfaces create angles, lines, shapes and planes the way planes create a dimensional ‘space’ the effect of different lighting on this setting. Take a photo. This should be an entirely artificial, constructed image that could even ‘defy gravity’. Objects Now choose a simple object and carefully place it into this composition. Avoid clichéd objects. Take a photo, then remove the object. Replace it with another object, something very different. Place this object in such a way that it’s not emphasised. (Did your first photo emphasise the object?) Take a photo. Now fill the space with a lot of different things (mattresses, furninture, crockery, books, plants, anything handy) and try to create an entirely constructed ‘environment’. It may be very messy, but it should depict a ‘place’ with an identity that only exists inside the frame of your camera.

I shall start with my favourite photo first.

Exercise 4.2 Constructed imagery

I had planned to use my ceiling as the space, and hang objects from it with thread, and something I intend to try in the future. I don’t have the energy to attempt complicated right now, and I need to make some progress, so I have returned to earth.

The brief is self explanatory, so these photos demonstrate the progress through building a scene, and make use of gels with a speedlight to see how colour effects appearance and mood.

The process has shown me that it is possible to create a “set” as it would be called on stage or in film, and that a set is limited to our imagination. One of the main points of the exercise is to help us to see that any objects can be used as setting or object for still life photography. The learning point that I will be taking from this exercise is to think outside of the box. Laura Lentisky’s use of magazine photos which she has cut out, and my initial idea of using are alternate objects and settings. Perhaps it’s about going with the flow, trying something and allowing it to succeed or fail.

Having been put off of still life, based upon what I had learned at seen at school, I’m surprised to have made use of flowers and a vase for my more creative exploration. They were, they were available. But hey – I got to play, create, explore and make photos, and right now that’s just what I need.

Exercise 4.2 Constructed imagery

Exercise 4.2 Constructed imagery

Exercise 4.2 Constructed imagery

Making use of a speedlight is new to me, and it will take a while to get used to. I haven’t found it to be especially useful here, although I quite like the second-last photo above. The directional lighting, which I had covered with a gel, has created the drama that I had hoped for. The way that coloured light impacts upon a scene and objects within it is quite obvious from the above photos. However, I’m still drawn to the red tinged photo above.

Exercise 4.5 Layers

Brief:- Most imagery contains layers of some kind: subject and background, f/g m/g and b/g, for example. In this exercise you’ll experiment with ways of making layered imagery in your camera. In the following exercise, you’ll experiment with using image layers in Photoshop. Look out of a window from inside and make a photograph that includes all three of these elements:

  • foreground detail in front of the window
  • a reflection of something otherwise unseen in the window
  • background environment on the other side of the window.

Consider the light carefully. If there’s a dark area on the other side of the window, it will help the window act as a mirror for an illuminated object inside. It may be best to shoot in the evening or at night to achieve this, but then you’ll have to consider the balance of exposures between the inside and the outside environments.

Having fun exploring layers

Guess who followed the brief fully and completely? I have had so much fun with this exercise. I took all of the photography whilst I was on holiday in London, and tried to find situations where there were multiple layers within the frame. Here are a few of my favourites. These have been through Lightroom for re-sizing and auto-colour neutral only.

Exercise 4.5 LayersOne of the most pleasing aesthetically for me, and additional layers are created by the multiple frames from within the shop.

Exercise 4.5 LayersThe reflection in the window that I am looking out of, a secondary one in the other coach’s windows, and them the layers through the bus station into the car park beyond.

Exercise 4.5 LayersThis one plays tricks with my mind. What exactly am I looking at? Whats outside and whats a reflection from the inside of the bus?

Exercise 4.5 LayersThe repeated reflection, and difference between mirrored reflection and glass reflection is appealing to me, along with the colours.

Exercise 4.5 LayersThe glass cover of the escalator provides a view through to an indoor shopping centre, which is all glass. But what really makes this are the reflections of St Paul’s Cathedral. The dome is enlarged at the bottom of the frame, with a smaller reflection which shows more of the tower in the top of the frame.

Exercise 4.5 LayersEek – Confusing

Here are a few others

Picture Analysis – Laura Letinsky – David Bate – Pieter Claesz

David Bate bungled-01 2009

Brief:- Have a close analytical look at the photograph above by Canadian photographer Laura Letinsky. You can see a larger version at http:// thephotographersgallery.org.uk/ill-form-and-void-full There is something immediately uncanny in this photograph and in much of Letinsky’s work. Firstly, notice the planes that make up the background and the area on the lower left of the picture. These ‘surfaces’, on which there are objects, shadows and cut-out pictures of objects, create an odd sense of space. It’s difficult to tell exactly which way gravity is working here. There appears to be a table top seen from the side in the middle of the area on the left, but then there’s another ‘surface’ seen from above too. This plays with our sense of dimensionality, the way we as viewers orient our viewpoint on the scene depicted. The objects themselves are simple, everyday items: two spoons, some fruit and cherry pips. Some of these appear to be ‘real’ in the sense that Letinsky has photographed them herself, whereas others have been cut out of magazines. Notice that these cut-out objects had been photographed from different viewpoints (and in a different time and space), which Letinsky has tried to incorporate into the perspective of her own ‘still life’ scene. The spoon on the left appears to rest on the surface and take part in the scene and the other spoon appears above the surface. How many things in your own life are real in the sense that they are in front of you physically? And how much of what you experience and know comes through representations? How do you think this affects people? In her previous work, Letinsky used left-over meals, plates and cutlery to indicate a scene, event or relationship going on beyond the view of the photograph, turning viewers into detectives looking for clues and connotations. Meticulously placed dishes express something about the thinking of the ‘character’ who placed them. In this work, she extends this by looking at the ways people incorporate representations and collective fantasies into their ‘reality’ and their desire. Have a look at Laura Letinsky’s website lauraletinsky.com. Also look at the still life work Bungled Memories by David Bate at www.davidbate.net. For a seventeenth-century comparison with Letinsky’s work, you can look at the paintings of Pieter Claesz here: rijksmuseum Pieter Claesz Write about the following issues in response to Letinsky’s photograph.

  1. Visual description (objects & background/space)
  2. Composition/design/arrangement
  3. Sense of space or ‘dimensionality’
  4. Connotations

Laura Letinsky

Ill Form and Void 12 Laura Letinsky 2011Fig. 1. Ill Form and Void 12 (2011)

Initial Thoughts – Lots of pleasing space. The whites and greys provide a feel of peace, stillness and serenity. The background surface is smooth and has the feel of a photographer’s gallery backdrop. There are three other planes, a vertical line which is slightly diagonal, intersecting with a horizontal line that slopes down towards it, creating a neutral space to the lower left of the picture. Then there appears to be a formica-like surface, which is reflective, and the subjects appear to be resting upon this, and then within that plane there is also the surface of a table which has a table-cloth over it. A spoon with crimson petals rests upon the table-cloth upon the left hand side, and on the right there is a half cut out shape of a plate, and then a whole plate with what appears to be some food remains. A second spoon, perhaps with sugar in it, floats above the table, and two pieces of fruit appear to be both on the table-cloth and yet not on it at the same time. The cherry pips and stalks begin on the formica-like surface and flow down onto the neutral space at the bottom left of the photo. At first glance, the way the planes intersect make the image appear to have horizontal and vertical surfaces, suggesting an upright structure. However, the more of see of this photo, the more that I think that it has been photographed from above, and that all of the objects have been cut from a magazine and placed upon the background. If this were the case then the shadows which appear in the area of light would have had to have been created in post processing.

There is an optical illusion within this photo, which makes it appear to be something which it is not. It has the suggestion of being a scene which was photographed, but is probably a collage, which has then been shot with a camera and developed digitally. I find this to be a clever piece of art, and one that I find enjoyable to look at.

As someone who has grown up with an idea of what still life is, from more traditional compositions, this drastically broadens my horizons, thank god. Letinsky’s composition is completely constructed and the only objects which I can see are pictures which have been cut from magazines, and placed by her onto a paper surface. I’m really impressed.

I have taken a look at other photos from this series (on her website – see references), and I only wish to add that I find this series to be beautiful.

David Bate

David Bate bungled-01 2009Fig. 2. Bungled Memories 01 (2009)

The above photo by David Bate is taken from his series Bungled Memories, in which he breaks every day objects. In their broken form these would be discarded, however, he photographs them and then uses them to create new works of art. On his website he discusses this series in relation to the psychology of “Freudian slips” (DavidBate.net)

I don’t get what he is trying to say with that description. The only thing that I can put in psychological terms is that by creating photos in which the breaks of the subject are completely smooth, almost perfect, and using backgrounds which creates boxes, is that we refine, define, clarify and compartmentalise our memories of events in a style which suits our internal frame of reference, rather than as literal representations of facts.

Pieter Claesz

Still Life with a Turkey PieFig. 3. stilliven met kalkoenpastei (Still Life with a Turkey Pie) (1627)

This is a more traditional still life in which the objects are painted in a manner that is a visual representation of “what was there”. There is no attempt to make the viewer think, no attempt to deceive or play tricks with the mind, and no attempt to ask the viewer to consider that there may be a representation of something un-seen. There is a clear sign of wealth and opulence, but this is also a clear visual representation.

I find it quite interesting that the art world at the end of the 19th century and beginning of the 20th had a debate about how photography was just a mechanical description of what was there. I have always held the belief that the majority of traditional art did just that by using an alternate recording device – the paint brush. Here the photography of Letinsky and Bate take the viewer on a journey through the abstract and challenge the viewer to keep looking and questioning. Bathes was wrong. Art captures what was there, photography invites, questions and challenges (OK, so art and photography can both be factual documentations or original works that invite thought).


Figure 1 Letinsky, L; 2011; Ill Form and Void [Archival Ink Print on Paper]; AT: http://time.com/52027/pictures-of-pictures-the-ambiguities-of-laura-letinsky/ (accessed on 26/09/2018)

Figure 2 Bate, D; 2009; Bungled Memories 01 ; AT: http://www.davidbate.net/ARTWORKS/BUNGLED-MEMORIES.html?pic=96 (accessed on 26/09/2018)

Figure 3 Claesz, P; 1627; stilliven met kalkoenpastei [Oil on panel]; AT: https://www.rijksmuseum.nl/nl/zoeken/objecten?q=Pieter+Claesz&p=1&ps=12&st=Objects&ii=1#/SK-A-4646,1 (accessed on 26/09/2018)



http://www.davidbate.net/ARTWORKS/BUNGLED-MEMORIES.html?pic=120 (accessed on 26/09/2018)


Creation – Exercise 4.1 – Fragments

Brief:- In this first exercise, you’ll use fragments of still life images to create a combined design. Arrange a still life set-up that includes a background (preferably an ironed white or black sheet) and three distinct objects. It would be helpful if at least one object was sized at least 0.5m or you’ll be photographing everything in macro. Use either sunlight from a window or one single source of electric light to cast shadows and bring out the 3D form of the objects. Photograph around the objects, both close and wide shots, not all from the front. Capture the edges and the lines of the objects as well as defined shapes within them – for example the sound holes of a violin. Capture edges where light and shadow create a sense of depth or recess. Take pictures of the textures and colours of the objects. Think of this project as collecting impressions and perceptions of these objects and let this guide your camera. You’ll need approximately 20 well-exposed images.

The idea behind this exercise is to imaginatively combine the different photographs into a single conclusive design. Have a look at some Cubist paintings and sculpture as inspiration. Notice how one object blends into another and how different viewpoints of the same object co-exist in surprising ways. The classic example of this is Picasso’s combination of the front and profile of a face, as in Weeping Woman, which you can see on the Tate’s website. Then look at Brendan Fowler’s Spring 2011 – Fall 2012 on the New York Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) website, which attempts similar arrangements with photography. Combine the photos by arranging prints or by using Photoshop to assemble the images as different layers. Cut the images and choose only fragments of each image, matching up lines so they flow and placing shapes in meaningful juxtapositions as defined points in the composition. You should find the composition grows into a large picture. When you’ve finished the design, photograph it or save it as a finished picture.

Creation - From exercise 4.1 Foundations in Photography, the Open College of the Arts, Still Life, Experimentation

The final result is not as good as I would have liked, and I certainly could go back an rework this photo. It doesn’t fulfill the brief in relation to cutting and layering parts of different images to combine shapes and planes.

What it does do is make use of parts of three different photos, which have been shot from different perspectives, using the same single light source and turned them into a fourth photo. It hints at the kookaburra being created out of the shadows of the other subjects. I followed a YouTube tutorial on pixel dispersion to mingle the shadow from Action Man with that from the first kookaburra. It took a while to get used to, and once complete I felt the image was somewhat flat. I decided then to make use of the third bird, to see if I could make it appear as if it was being formed from the shadow. The result is OK. Now that I have an idea of how to use the technique I could make better use of it in the future.

I haven’t followed the brief if you’re a purist, but I am pleased with my interpretation.

Contact Sheet


Photoshop Tutorials; 2016; Dispersion Effect: Photoshop Tutorial; AT: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4xgOWWfurpU (accessed on 26/09/2018)

Action Man Yoga

Back by popular demand, here is action man and his friend from the army.

Action man does yoga
Action man practicing warrior 2, also known as Virabhadrasana
Action man does yoga
Action man practicing triangle, also known as Trikonasana


My Initial Definition Of Still Life

I am shortly going to embark upon part four of Foundations in Photography with the Open College of the Arts. Although I am not going to begin the coursework exercises until I return from London, I am going to read the manual before I go. I am sure that London will provide additional opportunities for me.

Recently I have been taking some test photos so that I can explore Still Life and what it currently means to me.

My starting point is of course my schooling. Still Life in art classes was focused upon fruit, flowers and pasta in a jam jar. I am aware that still life in art and photography often focuses upon these, and in the days of mobile phones  meals have become very popular to photograph and display upon social media.

I am going to posit that Still Life in art and photography are secondary features of themselves they are  not Still Life.

“Still life is how people organise material or natural possessions, food stuffs, homes, the working environment, and shops. Photography and art develop from our basic need to be organised in order to function, and to possess objects as a means of individuation and pleasure. Often when we hear the words Still Life, we think of works of art or photography, and these are mistakenly believed to be the primary experience of Still Life. This is a misperception, and these are secondary reflections upon how we live our own lives.

Still Life in art and photography is the arrangement, organisation and presentation of objects for display, classification, documentation and study. Still Life is most often aesthetically pleasing, organised and an accurate representation of the subject.”


Deferring University – Preperation For Part Four, Still Life – Prep For London

Having been unable to find appropriate accommodation in the locale of Farnham I have deferred university until next year. A lot can happen in a year, so I am open-minded. I’m going to keep looking for a home swap, but I’m also happy to finish Foundations in Photography and then make a decision as to whether to take the photography degree with the Open College of the Arts, which is distant learning, or go to the University for the Creative Arts. There are advantages to both, but with my mental health as it is, then taking the degree with OCA has become my preferred option. Distant learning suits me, I can study part-time, have less pressure with deadlines, and not have the stress of moving. These are all protective factors for my mental health.

cofIs this still life?

I am shortly going to begin part four of Foundations in Photography, which is a section based upon still life. With the new medication that I am on and how it is affecting my energy, I decided not to begin part four until I return from London. However, I have been exploring thoughts, and making photos for my digital sketch book, which I hope to upload before I travel. We’ll wait and see. My aim is to read part four in the FiP manual, so that I can make the most of being in a new, dynamic environment, and begin to make photos, or at least test photos for the coursework whilst I am away.

IMG_20180805_101352.jpgIs this still life?

London, here I come. I am very excited about visiting London. My initial plan was for it to be for a few days. But I haven’t been too London as an adult. Yeah I have passed through it, and been to two football matches there, but I have never explored. I have activities planned, a few people to meet and an OCA study visit/field trip.

cofIs this still life?

Lots of wonderful opportunities for photography in different environments and with several genres, as well as museum and gallery visits, West End shows, football match, and nature. Lots and lots of nature, animals, birds, flowers, macro. I have Lightroom on my laptop now, so I may upload some photos as I go along, although my lap top is incredibly slow compared to my PC with its huge RAM.

cofIs this still life?

Consequently I am not going to be able to keep up with everyone’s blogs anywhere near as much as I would like to, but normal service will be resumed upon my return.