Informing Contexts Work in Progress Portfolio

This was submitted as an online portfolio. It is in three sections, each comprising of four images and an animation. How the images were produced is described in my Critical Review and elsewhere in the Critical Research Journal. The animations are here. The galleries below present the four images from each section. This is experimental work that I started about half way through the module. There is a long way to go in developing it further.


Each image is made from the same three photographs (the place as it is, organic material from the site, construction work around the site) with different tonal mixing. Just to illustrate the approach. Let it run as a slide show to see the relationship between the images. Or click on the image to see the detail of an individual image. I’ve also uploaded an animation based on the sequence (below – best played full screen) which maybe shows the relationship between images more clearly.

Now working on images relating to the developments and communities in east London that I am focusing on for my project. My intention is that these will look very different – and will visually relate to the regeneration strategy being deployed (future post about this). Info on the process here. Discussion of what I am trying to do in exploring questions of space and time in relation to regeneration programmes, communities and the environment here. All work in progress, with a long way to go, as always.

Photo-anxiety and the ‘poor image’

I made these images in an attempt to disrupt my habitual image making, by introducing a number of technological and human ‘glitches’. All the images were made around the house whilst sorting through and disposing of stuff brought out of storage from my old office at work. The images are incidental and make no attempt to record the process – they are made at the edges. I used a first generation micro four-thirds camera with a CCTV lens. The camera has no viewfinder and no focus assistance, and my failing near-sight made focusing erratic. The lens introduced significant curvature and vignetting. No cropping and no processing. These images are a step on the way to a final artifact, which will be in print form. Not quite degraded ‘poor images‘ in Hito Steyerl’s (2009) terms (maybe explore this later) but a step on the way. Having worked to develop the quality of my images over the past year or so, I felt anxious working in this way, introducing limitations right at the beginning of the process and then working with them. I’m thinking about other ways of disrupting practice, maybe along the lines of Brian Eno’s oblique strategies, in which chance application of operations transforms the process of production of images and the outcomes.

Steyerl, H. 2009. ‘In Defense of the Poor Image’. e-flux journal #10, November. Available at [accessed 31.01.19]

Object Lessons

This month I’ve been working alongside UCL Bachelor of Arts and Science students on their ‘Object Lessons’ module. For this, each student ‘adopts’ an object from one of the university museums, collections or galleries. The programme is a mixture of lectures (on material culture, the psycho-social significant of objects and workshops on handling, recording and writing about objects) and workshops involving working with objects alongside curators. Just some initial ‘descriptive’ photos of some of the objects from the Grant Museum and some ‘handling’ in the Petrie Museum.

Thinking about how to develop a project from this, and perhaps how to relate the focus on objects to my work on communities and regeneration (useful discussion with Michelle about this, with lots of references to follow up).

Barking Riverside

Quick catch up on images made since the end of the previous module. Some images from the Riverside Development (‘Barcelona-on-the-Thames’).

And some from neighbouring Creekside. More to be done here, I think, around the theme of erasure and overwriting. There was a community here until the 1950s, providing housing for people employed in the industrial works in the area. This was demolished to make space for further industrial development, and people relocated to other estates in Barking. Former residents meet regularly, and there is a simple heritage trail around the area, though very low profile. Might offer the opportunity to combine exploration of the area and former residents’ emotional ties with object focused and archival work.


Series of photographs taken from the supermarket car park which now occupies the former site of the Ilford Ltd factory and head office (1880 to  1976) in Roden Street, Ilford. Home of HP5 and FP4.


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!