Archived Positions and Practice Work in Progress Portfolio

Starting to put together the work in progress portfolio for Sustainable Prospects. In order to use portfoliobox to explore new ways of presenting my work, I’m going to have to decommission my Positions and Practice portfolio. Thought it would be good to archive that here. These photographs were intended to be presented as vertical triptychs. For the portfolio, I put these together as two grids. The ‘Out of Sight’ images are here and the ‘Contested Development’ images are here.

Out of Sight‘, photographs from the Roding Valley Park, grid arrangement in portfoliobox.
Contested Development‘, photographs from Hackney Wick, grid arrangement in portfoliobox.


Martin Parr Foundation

Bristol Paintworks, 27th October 2018.

Great to meet up with Jesse, Paul and fellow students (and a graduate) on the MA at the Martin Parr Foundation in Bristol on Saturday. Terrific collection of photobooks (from Chris Killip’s and other collections: Martin’s massive collection now with the Tate), Martin’s archive, work he has collected by other photographers, and an excellent exhibition space (current exhibition is Paul Trevor’s ‘In Your Face‘). There is a lot to explore here, but standouts for me on this initial visit are Graham Smith’s prints with handwritten narrative by him on the back of each one (Martin’s assistant, Louis, reading one of these below).

And the dummies of photobooks, giving insight into the process of putting a book together. Julian Germain’s dummy for ‘For Every Minute You Are Angry You Lose 60 Seconds of Happiness’ is a work of art in it’s own right (see this and final book below).

And a lovely small book with short story by Ahndraya Parlato & Greg Halpern, which presented an interesting way of combining images and fiction.

For my own work, I’m certainly going to explore Graham Smith’s work more closely, particularly in how he comes to understand and describe the lives of individuals and communities in a particular area (industrial Middlesborough, in this case). Notable that he moved away from photography when his images were misused in the press (to represent working class people negatively), which he felt had compromised his commitment to the community and the trust they had placed in him. And creating dummy books is a good activity for workshops with residents and community groups. Will explore the subscription scheme when it is launched.

Toward a Concrete Utopia

Toward a Concrete Utopia: Architecture in Yugoslavia 1948-1980, Museum of Modern Art, New York, 11th October 2018

Another exhibition that combines a variety of modes (text, drawings, diagrams, maps, films, photography) to explore complex issues (ideology, the built environment, equity, quality of life, and the aspirations of non-aligned nations). My own work is not, of course, at anywhere near this scale, but will combine photography with maps, diagrams and text, and possibly sound and video. This exhibition has an number of organisational strands running through it, relating to time, sector (for instance, health, government and education) and location. These are drawn together under the theme of exploration of the aspiration to find a socialist and anti-colonial ‘third way’ in the development of a nation, that aligns with neither east (soviet communism) nor west (capitalism). The exhibition includes a number of large photographs (commissioned for the exhibition) by Valentin Jeck.

Valentin Jeck, 2016, Revolution Square, Ljubljana
Valentin Jeck, 2016, Genex Tower, Belgrade

These images give a sense of the scale of the brutalist architecture and of aspirations, both as a nation and as the source of a particular form of modernism. As well as drawing inspiration from the form of the exhibition, I would like to experiment with photographing brutalist (and other modernist) architecture in London, including examples in areas in the throes of regeneration. Would have been good to have had more time in Moscow to have done some architectural photography  (images from around the International Investment Bank below from Week 5 challenge).


Turner Prize 2018

Tate Britain, 16th October 2018 [review]

It’s notable that all four of the nominees this year are working in the medium of film (analogue and digital, with and without other media). More notable, certainly of me, is that they all address what I would consider to be sociological and political issues. In terms of development of my project, the exhibition has helped me to think about the use of exhibition space and how to make different modes (images, text, sound, video) work together. Also, the extent to which work can have a sociological and political intent.

Forensic Architecture create a critical narrative from material collected during and after an event. The use of maps and different representations of time (placing material along a timeline and time-coding) is interesting, and can certainly have some potential when exploring the engagement of the community in unfolding regeneration projects. Likewise the use of citizen produced material and the linkage to a longer term investigation, in this case the presence of Bedouin people in a particular area over time (include maps, overlays, photographs and documentary evidence). Unlike my project, there is no direct artistic engagement, apart from the presentation of the material in a gallery context. The juxtaposition of a range of different modes of presentation and media is certainly important for my own project, though it won’t, as a whole, have the same kind of narrative structure (though there will be ‘micro-narratives’ within it.

Luke Willis Thompson‘s work offers other forms of inspiration. One is his mode of working. Spending much of his time moving from one place to another means that production of the work cannot be studio based. He tends to work on his laptop at the kitchen table (wherever he is), and ‘outsources’ and collaborates in production (in this case the transfer to film and the production of a device for projection of a continuous strip of film covering three distinct but related works). He also destroys all the material collected in the process of making the works when these are completed. In my current phase of life, this is attractive as I do not want to build up an archive of material (and have in the past, anyway, burnt notebooks and deleted material when I move from one phase of working life to another, so I have form in this respect). This entails placing a distinct endpoint in the production process.

Thompson’s work is collaborative, in this case working with the ‘sitters’ in two of the films and with the family of the artist in the third. Decisions are made together about how people represent themselves, though the mode and context are set by Thompson. The projection device, in particular its size and sound, emphasise the physicality of the medium and that it is a mode of representation/delivery; it creates a distinct context or environment for the work. Again, there is a distinct social and political intent to the works.

Charlotte Prodger and Naeem Mohaiemen both use long(er) form film/video (whereas Thompson’s works are short, without narrative structure and looped). Mohaiemen’s interest in the exploration of post-colonial aspirations relates closely to my other interests but not directly to this particular project. The form (films running over an hour) is not one that attracts me at the moment, though the concertina book with images and text is certainly interesting. Prodger’s work is shorter and weaves personal reflection with wider cultural and social issues, in particular relating to identity. Both the weaving of accounts, and the use of small video devices held close to the body in recording seemingly ‘on the fly’ are of interest to me in developing a sense of place and how this relates to the lived experience, identities and aspirations of residents.

One other element that warrants consideration is the place in all these works of still images, in the case of the film pieces, this includes shots that are held for a period of time, without reframing and with little or no movement within the frame. As a photographer, the place of ‘stillness’ in multi-modal works, and in the gallery setting, is important to address. In my earlier post on the film ‘Island’ and accompanying installation, this was related to creating a space for contemplation and holding of attention. Clearly this can be achieved within a film work, and alongside it (in the case of Mohaiemen, this is effectively achieved in a three screen presentation in which images can be ‘held’ on one of the screens). For further consideration in another post.

The best Turner shortlist for some time. I spent half a day there, and will return for more. Requires time, particularly if you want to watch all the films.

Week 5: Reflection

The ‘meet someone new’ activity was useful. I think I’ll develop something from this – a more structured way of exploring the relationship between an individual or community with place. Might be fruitful (for the development of my project) to make the dimensions of ‘prosperity’ explicit and work on how to make images to explore these with people. I need to seek some feedback on the final product, maybe at the meetup in Bristol this weekend.

From the networking activity (which I related specifically to my project) I gained an appreciation of the benefit of seeking synergies between networks associated with different activities (in my case, my academic networks and my emerging work as a photographer).

Over the coming week I have to work on the workshop for the Development Planning Unit. I’ll relate this to my coursework presentation (as it relates to my project and will explore similar issues and draw on common material). I am way behind in writing up my contextual research (including reflection on the exhibitions I have been to over the past few months). The real urgency, though, is to work on my portfolio. Having to build up contacts and make relationships has diverted me from image making. I need to get to work on this.

Week 5: Networking

Networking is integral to my work as an academic. In order to make a contribution to knowledge, that is recognised by peers and has wider impact, you have to be part of an number of communities, and these are likely to be international. Conferences, journals, books, professional associations, research networks, special interest groups, online fora etc all play a part in sustaining and enlarging these networks, as does teaching and public service/engagement. I’m at a very early stage in my photographic development, so I am careful not to over-promote what I do, and to make sure I have space for experimentation and change. My photographic networking efforts are thus, for the moment, modest, and related to my project. I don’t have a sufficiently strong identity as a photographer to be more ambitious at the moment, though I am very appreciative of being able to learn from the things that others on the course are doing. My networking activities this week have been:

  • to meet with the student volunteering co-ordinator to arrange to support, make images and run workshops for student photographers who are documenting work being done by volunteers with community groups.
  • planning a workshop on the use of photography in research, development and dissemination for masters students with the Development Planning Unit at UCL Bartlett. I’ll run the workshop next week and then visit students during their fieldwork with community groups.
  • to meet with a former PhD student who is a social documentary photographer to discuss each others work. This is going to be a regular event, and we might do some collaborative work together.

My academic networks have also generated some photographic work. I have been asked by a publisher to produce a cover for one of my forthcoming books, and submit images for other books in the series. I have also been asked to produce images for the website of a research centre and to act as a mentor for two projects that are using the photovoice approach (one on domestic violence and the other on youth offenders in rural areas). I have also spoken to two research groups about including image-making in their work, one investigating teachers lives and careers, and the other looking at the experiences of care leavers entering higher education – both of these could lead to interesting projects. So there is a lot to be said for linking our different networks together and seeking synergies between them.

Week 5 Challenge: Meet Someone New

This activity landed while I was chairing a review of a Russian university in Moscow. We had a meeting with students that day, so I asked if anyone would like to help me with an assignment after the review was over. Stanislav contacted me later, so I sent him the brief and we met on Sunday afternoon. We talked for about an hour about where he lived and his life in Moscow, and planned the places we would visit and how we would work together on the task. We spent the rest of the day visiting different parts of Moscow to talk and take photographs, and then sat over a drink to review what we had and work on a structure. The next day I sent him the selected images in order with some draft text based on the interview and subsequent conversations, which he modified by return. I then put together this simple image and text presentation.

We both enjoyed the process. With limited time available, and now being in two countries (I returned to London on Monday), it’s not a deep piece of work. But I can see the potential to develop this kind of collaborative approach. I also want to think more about how to present this kind of work, and how to explore deeper and more demanding issues. I’d have been happier with an spoken commentary over the images but no time for that. And a juxtaposition of images in some way. This will help with the fieldwork I am doing with planning students at UCL Bartlett over the coming weeks.

I’m really grateful to Stanislav for his generosity and openness. I got to see parts of Moscow that otherwise I wouldn’t have explored. And, believe me, it is way more scary being told not to photograph by security guards in Russian!

Week 4: Reflection

The Max Burnett interview was very insightful for me, coming from completely outside ‘the industry’. Particularly the importance of a print portfolio (which I want to build, but have neglected since my RPS submission). Need to think about strongest work and how images sit together, and the need for a different edit from website. Consider more than on image per page – think about the relationship between images. Think about audience. Consider different formats for presenting work – books, postcards etc.

The ‘Begin at the Beginning’ activity provided wonderful insight into the development of other people’s practice as photographers, and I was grateful for the interest paid to my own story and work (not a conventional passage into photography) by others. The ‘Marketing Plan’ activity was also beneficial in forcing me to think more clearly about the development of my work and how I will engage others. At some point I need to think clearly about how to market my own work, in the sense that I do want an audience, and whilst this is not a business, thinking about the funding of my photographic work is important.

A lot of exhibitions visited this week (in New York, London and Moscow), which I’ll write up in the Contextual Research section. The Turner Prize shortlist exhibition at Tate Britain has been particularly influential (for the use of film and the sociological and political focus of the work), and the Yugoslavian architecture (Towards a Concrete Utopia) exhibition at MoMA in New York (with tremendous photographs of brutalist architecture by Valentin Jeck).

Valentin Jeck, Marko Mušič’s Memorial and Cultural Center and Town Hall in Montenegro, 1969-75

Week 4: Marketing plan

Whilst I don’t strictly need to develop a business, I do need to think about how I manage relationships with partners in my proposed project (and consequent and parallel projects) and get the work that is produced to the right audience. So I am going to think about he marketing plan in those terms. And I’m going to keep it simple, so as not to divert me from the core activity of making images. The marketing related activities should help to drive the project forward and structure activity. In the plan posted below I have drawn on my project proposal and incorporated what I have learned from this module thus far.  In the proposal I have mapped out activities relating to the other modules, but not included them here.

The feedback on the plan has been really useful. In particular, I need to keep a systematic and evolving record of contact (my own CMS) as this is going to get complex quickly. I also need to think about how I sustain engagement with residents over the duration of the project. Sophie has suggested ‘consider keeping them updated with your pictures by emailing them images as you go, or swapping images with them, yours and theirs etc as part of the collaboration – images they might like family photos, pets etc – this can create good will and trust’. All good ideas to follow up.


Areas of east London are experiencing dramatic and rapid development, which will potentially transform the local environment and demographic profile. In the past these developments have, at best, brought limited benefit to existing residents, and, at worst, driven long-established communities out of the area.

This project aims to use photographic image-making, alongside other media, to understand the social, cultural, political and economic dynamics of change in these areas, and help residents to be pro-active in achieving positive outcomes for the local community.


  • use photographic images and image-making to understand the life-worlds and aspirations of residents and how their circumstances relate to and can be improved by proposed developments in their locality, and to help them influence these developments.
  • meet, build trust and work collaboratively with residents, researchers, community groups, local government and businesses to develop photographic and related resources to use in initiatives designed to develop local prosperity and advocacy.
  • increase the complexity and scope of my own practice as a photographic artist in addressing challenging interdisciplinary and multi-professional issues, and to take this work to a wider audience.
  • enhance understanding of how photography, in an arts-based research approach, can integrate with and contribute to physical and social science research addressing complex and enduring social concerns.


The outcomes of the project will combine three different levels of image-making, engaging different audiences and entailing a range of means of dissemination:

  • images produced by residents as part of a participatory style research study, designed to explore the life-worlds of communities.
  • images produced in collaboration with local stakeholders for use by local community groups and other stakeholders for use in advocacy.
  • images produced through my own artistic, emotional and intellectual response to resident and collaborative images and my engagement with the areas and their communities.


Over coming modules I seek to develop skills in:

  • use of online collaboration tools and social media to disseminate and promote the work produced in the project, and enhance public engagement (Sustainable Prospects).
  • arts-based research, with more sophisticated knowledge of critical theory relating to my project (Informing Contexts).
  • photo-book production, installation design, printing for exhibition and alternative modes of presentation to different audiences, physically and online (Strategies & Surfaces).

 Activities (Sept-Dec 2018 – Sustainable Prospects)

  • Relationship building with community groups and other stakeholders .
  • Identify areas in which to trial collaborative image making.
  • Make links with citizen scientists and local activists.
  • Exploratory image making.
  • Review online portfolio weekly.
  • Compile print portfolio.
  • Develop personal and project website.
  • Spend ten minutes every two days reviewing and posting on Instagram.
  • Determine locality for main study.
  • Explore online tools and social media for networking, collaborative working, community building and dissemination.

Initial project schedule

This is the schedule set out in my project proposal. Clearly it is up for revision as we go through the programme. In terms of networking and relationship building, I am, I think, ahead of schedule. I have done some portaiture to develop skills and approach. Images that contribute to the final project will be produced relatively late in the module, which is a worry in terms of completing the assignments. I’ll update, revise and refine as the work progresses.

  • Sept-Dec 2018 (Sustainable Prospects). Relationship building with London Prosperity Board members. Identify areas in which to trial collaborative image making. Make links with citizen scientists and local activists. Exploratory image making. Determine locality for main study. Explore online tools and social media for networking, collaborative working, community building and dissemination.
  • Jan-May 2019 (Informing Contexts). Background investigation of locality for main study (including census based demographic study, mapping and archival work). Investigate the ontological, epistemological and methodological basis of arts-based research approaches. Relate social science theory to theoretical perspectives in photographic arts. Research relevant theoretical foundations of photographic work. Trial Photovoice approach. Final design of study and ethical approval application.
  • June-August 2019 (Strategies & Surfaces). Continuing personal photographic work and collaborative image making. Explore alternative means of presenting images (including books, installations and online galleries). Conduct workshops to prepare community members for Photovoice work. Determine form of personal and collaborative image making, and process of dissemination. Start collection of Photovoice data.
  • Sept-Dec 2019 (FMP1). Analyse and write up community member research. Carry out collaborative photographic work and personal image making. Identify methods of presentation of work and agree methods of dissemination and engagement with participants. Secure exhibition space.
  • Jan-May 2020 (FMP2). Complete all image-making phases. Produce final images and text. Present work, gather feedback and produce account of the project and its outcomes.