Gallery visit planning

Its been a while since I have had time to try and squeeze a gallery visit in but this time I am planning quite a special visit that I am very much looking forward too. A new exhibit had launched at the national portrait gallery in London of Audrey Hepburn: Portraits of an Icon!  

I love photography from the 1950s and this is set taken by Norman Parkinson for glamour magazine is one of my favorites and has inspired me to do artwork in the past.


I havent been to the national portrait gallery for many years the last time i went when I was 17 on a school trip when we did a tour of several different galleries from the V & A, The tate mordern and the tate along with a few others. I am hoping to make a visit within the next month or so.

Project 1: The language of photography

How we read a picture is determined by many personal and background factors. One person may look at the picture of a dog and be repulsed, another may feel affection. So there’s no such thing as a universal photographic language which can be directly understood in the same way as spoken or written language can ( although misunderstandings occur even between speakers of the same language due to different usage of the same word,double meanings ect.). When we refer to photography as a language, were speaking more about an interpretation rather than a direct translation of information. This distinction is important when were thinking bout how to read pictures.


Before you read any further look at Erwitts’s image and write some notes about how the subject matter is placed within the frame. How Has Erwitt structured this image? What do you think the image is saying? How does the structure contribute to this meaning?

Elliott Erwitt, New York 1974

When first looking at this image it looks like were are looking at a small dog with two sets of human legs but when taking an more close in depth look you can see one very tall set of dogs legs. I am not really sure what this is meant to mean to be totally honest, it could be using a rather large dog to portray a human to fool the viewer.  The composition is very well though out with the placement of the legs so a tight crop like he has used works well otherwise the back legs of the dog would have been seen and wouldn’t have worked. The placement of the subjects are quite central so are the main focu of the image, the bottom half being the foreground and the top half being the background. There seems to be connection between the dog and the large legs and the small dog and why the photographer has focused on the small dog. Could be because he is so tiny and his larger doggy friend gets noticed much more than the little dog so maybe Erwitt decided to give the little dog some attention.

Part Four – Reading photographs

Last assignment has been sent off and I am keen to get working on reading photographs as I am lagging behind a little. First thoughts on this new section is I am really quite apprehensive and thinking about the next assignment is a daunting prospect. I feel that since I started this course my writing has come on leaps and bounds but I still feel that there is room for much more improvement with expressing myself in writing which I struggle to get my point across. So I think I am going to find myself struggling through this next part but I will give it my best and you never I could surprise myself!

Assignment three

Drawing upon the examples in Part three and your own research, you can approach your self portraits however you see fit.

Keep a diary for a set period of time( at least 2 weeks). Each day write 2 or 3 pages about yourself- what you have been doing/ thinking. This can as specific or poetic as you wish.

I have had a little trouble with time keeping on this assignment as I am over due with handing it in to my tutor, this was kind of out of my control as my hard drive decided to burn out I had lost the work that I had completed for this assignment as usually i back my work up but hadn’t got round to doing it at the time and had lost what I had done so had to re do what I had done.

When first approaching this assignment I felt overwhelmed by the possibilities that could be played out within this genre of self portraits, then i realized we had to keep a diary so this meant that from what i recorded in my diary that would then lead on to which direction this assignment would take me. I didn’t want to keep a diary for too long as I felt this would be quite time consuming so thought Id just start with the 2 weeks and add to it if I needed to. A few days in to my diary keeping I thought Id start on some personal research and use that to help me along my way and to spark inspiration,


My research started off by just browsing self portraiture photographers and then I kind worked my way through on to the era of the 40’s and 50’s which is what really draws me in.

I started off with Claude Cahun, when first looking at her work I thought it was a man as she came across very masculine. Here is a link to my thoughts on her work

My nest research post covered a few artists from different eras to different styles. It started off with an unknown photographer Noel S Ozaid, I know that I should really focus my research on more popular and well known photographers but her is really powerful. My research then moved on to Sally Mann an American artist known for her black and white photographs of changing subjects from her children, to landscape to decay, But i focused on her self portrait series that she conducted whilst she was bed ridden from a terrible horse riding accident. I found sally’s work impressive with the use of an old technique of wet plates. Next was Andy Warhol! one of my favorites from my art and design days, this was a really brief look at his work as I had previously covered him and Stephen Shore back in TAOP. Hippolyte Bayard was next and I really enjoyed reading up about his life and how he was shafted by Louis Daguerre

My research then began to shift towards the 1940s- 50s and it started off by looking at Arthur Weegee, I really loved looking at his work and I really enjoyed the double exposures that he had taken of himself this was right up my street which fitted in well with the last assignment.  Bunny yeager just had to be on my list I knew of her work before hand as she was the lady who helped Betty page become as big as she was. I love bunnies self portraits as she there was always a playful element to her photographs. I also did some research on Imogen Cunningham too. I thought about researching into Vivian Maier again but have done so twice now and I felt it would get repetitive but I did watch a really good documentary about her which had me glued for the 90 minutes. I found it fascinating as there really isn’t much information on the web about her in depth about her life but this you really get an insight to what she was like.

What next?

I struggled with the diary side as I found it hard to write a lot about myself some days I was able to write more than others. In total over 15 days I managed to write 2 double sides A4 sheets of paper along with one side of an A4 sheet of paper. I guess it was not as much writing that was asked for but I felt that I wrote what I was feeling and what I had been up to should felt that this was more than enough into my boring life. After reading through what I had written there were parts of the writing that has sparked some inspiration/ ideas for my series of photographs about me.

In total I had 3 ideas that I had come up with that I could use for this self portrait assignment.

  • What makes me, on a day to day basis

This idea came about from a couple of entries into my diary that I had made about how I feel in the morning when I first get up and how I have to put on my make up and dresses to feel more like me, along with two woman talking about me in the shop about my tattoos and piercings.

diary 2

diary 1

  • My second idea- spawned from a comment that was made to me just after i had finished writing my diary and consisted of a group conversation and this conversation went on to about how i dress and how lovely my dresses where which usually pops up a lot but then it went further to do you act like a 50s housewife? which I don’t but this gave me an idea to act out my everyday life but exaggerate it in the way that people think i live my life.
  • My 3rd idea was based on an entry in my diary about johnny cash and my love for him and how much he inspires me. So thought maybe do a Gillian waring style sort of thing by acting out my inspirations in life.

I decided that in the end I would go for the 1st idea as I felt that the other 2 would end up being repetitive to the last assignment and I do not really want that. I wanted to set these out into different sets of images as i felt they worked better that way.

Set 1

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This set is I go about making myself more presentable face wise as I very rarely leave the house with no make up on as I feel really exposed and self conscious. I guess make up is a way of expressing myself too through my mood in the winter I tend to wear a much darker shade of lippy and i usually wear colours to go with the seasons.

Set 2 

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set 2

This set is exploring a few of the tattoos on my body along with piercings. I have tattoos on my back, arms, leg, feet, fingers and chest I also have my lip pierced in 3 different places along with ear stretchers. I think people judge me very quickly. I got my first lip piercing when i was 15 and my first tattoo at 18. I think people are very quick to judge me which I guess that is what comes with body art I do not feel that my body art is offensive I see it it as an extension to myself. Myself and my husband decided to get matching diamond and flowers tattoos on our fingers as we both don’t like wearing rings so thought would be a more appropriate symbol for our marriage than a ring. I experimented with editing on this set and i felt colour have the effect I was looking for and found black and white to be more visually striking and I also think it fits better as I feel with the black and white it focuses on the tattoos and I feel that is how people look at me they focus on the tattoos and piercings.

Set 3

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This set is how I express myself through clothes and accessories. Its a strange one as If I have a dress on and my hair all in rolls ect I have to have a flower in or i do not feel right everything has be as it should and I feel that without shoes, handbags, flowers and dresses I wouldn’t be able to bright and colorful and feminine and its took me while to figure out who I am and I am starting to feel comfortable in my skin thanks to being able to express myself through these gorgeous clothes.

How did it go?

Well I had my little computer incident as mentioned at the beginning which delayed me by quite a lot but I have tried to catch up as quickly as possible. I feel that this assignment has gone OK, I struggled with picking an idea as I wanted to do a pin up series of an exaggerated perception people have of me but I felt this would be too many pictures of just me and my face and that would have been quite similar to the last assignment so didn’t really want to do that. I wanted to have images of myself but not just all images of me I think this series of sets help show people what I am like and my personality through make up and clothes. I am looking forward to moving on to the next part of context and narrative and I am quite apprehensive as I have looked what the next assignment is and it worries me that have to write about one photo as I really am not good at expresses what i see and  feel through words so mixed emotions on that but I guess I shall do my best and that is all I can do.

Finding Vivian Maier

The other day I came across a fantastic documentary on sky arts called Vivian Maier. I thought Id give it a watch to see if it was worth watching.I found this documentary to be a worth while watch I really enjoyed it. Was 90 minutes long which went by quite quickly. On the internet I had always struggled finding out a lot about Vivian Maiers life. I found out quite a lot from how her work was discovered, I hadn’t realised how young the lad who had bought her work at an auction really was, I admire him for the dedication and hard work he put in to getting Maier’s work out there and finding out who she was. The documentary moved onto finding out what kind of a woman Maier was. She was a very private lady who really did like her privacy the children who she had nannied over the years had talked about the fond memories that they had of her and hoe she was a lovely lady. This soon changed and the children she had nannied talked about her in a different way to a much darker side to her where she wasn’t so nice, one child recalled to being force fed until she was sick. Vivian appeared to be a strange character and would hoard newspapers and lots of other things and didnt like people going into her room where she was staying when nannying. It was also odd that each different person recalled to knowing her by different names. Some say you would never call her Viv, one said you could only call her Viv, one said miss maiers and went on like this. People thought she was French because she spoke in a French accent but really she was from New York. Her mother was French and took trips to France to visit her family, She had also managed to do a lot of travelling around the world.

Overall I found this documentary a real thought provoking one and it left me feeling quite sad foe Maier as towards the end of her life she seemed rather lonely by the sounds of it. I think maybe she may have had some mental issues too by the sounds of it but I really did enjoy learning about her back story and more to the kind of person she was. Still stands at one of my favourites and always will be I think.

Assignment update:

Running behind on this assignment by quite a bit which is starting to stress me out, I had lost all my work that I had done for my assignment due to my Hard drive messing up on my computer and have been out of action for a couple of weeks so I am currently working on re doing the work that i lost so fingers crossed wont take to long. I am also going to make a start on part four reading photographs so I can make up for lost time.

Project 3: self absented portraiture, exercise- Nigel Shafran

For this exercise we were asked to look at Nigel Shafran’s series washing up and to answer some questions that were asked. Washing up (2000) is a series by Nigel Shafran that he took in 2000 that consisted of images showing washing up in his kitchen but occasionally somewhere else. The series of images have text included along with them and this usually goes in to detail about what had be eaten but sometimes included other interesting information.

4th January 2000. Three bean soup, cauliflower vegetable cheese. Morning coffee and croissants.

28th January 2000. Crumpets, tuna salad sandwich, seitan stew and rice.

31st January 2000.  Horrible crumpets and Jill’s jam, rosehip tea, smoked salmon on bread and alphalfa sprout salad, apple, left over veg haggis, and seitan spinach and burnt rice to come!

25th April 2000.  8.00pm by Terry’s watch. Branflakes, toast, mint tea at John and Sara’s in Glasgow. Picked up Iranian pitta filled breads in Glasgow [eaten on motorway], Chicken Dalgleish, potatoes and veg, strawberry and apple sponge with cream at Jill and Terry’s with Jo, Kathy and Ruth.

with this series we do not know if Nigel himself did the washing up or if his wife had done it. By looking at the photographs the main thing you notice is how neat and tidy the washing up is stacked. My washing up never looks that neat. This could be an insight to the person who washes up could show that they are a tidy person.

I find this series a simple set of images and I find it quite an odd subject to approach and it did leave me wondering why Shafran would want to take on such a subject. Whilst having a look around his website at other series he had done I came across an interview with Paul Elliman.

 Er, dunno really. It’s not supposed to be
an idea. I wanted to start the New Year with something
optimistic. And personal. Something with lots of shapes,
where shapes would change, keep changing

(Elliman 2000)

This style of photography is quite boring to me as its repetitive even though the items of washing up changes its not the most exciting thing to look at. I guess what I am trying to say politely is that I am not a fan of Nigel Shafran I feel quite harsh saying that but I am just being honest. I did take the time to look at his other series to see if they were more interesting but they really did not thrill me. I found one of his series funny as he photographed teen in a shopping centre this made me laugh because it looks like it was taken in the 80s and there is some outrageous hair do and clothing.


Did it surprise you that this was taken by a man?

No not really, its just a pile of washing up men wash up all the time.

In your opinion does gender contribute to the creation of an image?

I do not think that gender contributes to the creation of a photograph that really does depend on more so of interests, hobbies and personality. I do think that there would be different outcomes if the same photograph was taken by a man and by a women due to different approaches and thinking. As men think differently to women.

What does this series achieve by not including people?

I think by not including people it adds some mystery as we do not know what Ruth (Nigel’s wife) looks like or even Nigel for that matter. From just looking at the image we know someone has been there and done the washing up by adding people I think this would then change the feel of the series by quite a lot from a still life series by adding people you then maybe be shifting it towards the lines of social documentary.

Do you regard them as interesting still life compositions?

I regard them as being still life compositions but Interesting still life compositions is a bit of a push for me. I appreciate what this series is and there is a good use of shapes that help make the composition more interesting to the eye. Its a personal take on the everyday routine of cooking, eating, washing up and putting away the dishes. We are invited to take a look and have an idea of what happened before hand and what will happen after the text also helps us to get more of an insight.

References used