Category Archives: Uncategorized

‘The Decisive Moment’ Research

I have been asked to look into ‘The Decisive Moment’ which was most atributed to Henri Cartier-Bresson and therefore will be looking into his work as well. This will be a write up of my research into different viewpoints and shall conclude with my own personal opinion.

Let’s ask the question, what does the ‘decisive moment’ really mean? By definition of course, ‘decisive’ means that something is influential or conclusive and ‘moment’ is a short indefinite period of time. What does it mean together then? In photography terms the decisive moment “refers to capturing an event that is ephemeral and spontaneous, where the image represents the essence of the event itself”. This all came about because of Henri Cartier-Bresson, he was born in 1908, Chanteloup, Seine-et-Marne in France and orignally trained as a painter. His first photobook “Images a la Sauvette” translates to ‘images on the sly’ and was published in 1952 by Teriade. They then produced an English version titled ‘The Decisive Moment’ which was not what his original intention for the meaning behind the photobook. The book features orginal cover art from Henri Matisse, who was a famous artist and great friend to Henri Cartier-Bresson. The photos are in a large format 11 x 14.5 inches, it is divied into two parts, before and after 1947.

International Center of Photography Artical

In ‘Photogrpahy; a Critical Introduction’ By Liz Wells (2009) she states that the decisive moment is grasping at straws and that there is no greater meaning than just a moment in time. She calls the ‘Decisive Moment’ “a formal flash of time when all the right elements were in place before the scene fell into its quotidian disorder”. She then goes onto talking about how documentary photography has changed from actually documenting major subjects to exploring culture, just like travel/tourism photography. “Cartier- Bresson’s humanist work is often regarded as documentary or as photojournalism but he is also seen working outside the contrainst of labels of this kind”. In my opinion I agree with the last point, photo journalism has changed over the years, now that we have social media we want to see different places around the world and are more connected to what is going on in different countries, anyone can be a photo journalist if they have a phone and are there first, but Cartier- Bresson’s work had an artistic flare, he was able to take a documentary photo and line it up just right so it looked aesthetically pleasing. And coming back to the first point Liz Well makes, I have to agree but disagree, although I see where she is coming from regarding looking for meaning that isnt there, I do believe that there is some meaning behind the decsive moment, at the end of the day when we die all that is left is the moments and memeories we share with our loved ones, photography prolongs those moments and in turn it becomes a moment for someone in years to come, whether it was a photo in you’re grannies living room that you’ll keep when she passes, or its learning about those people in a museum. There is something special about that, which differs from setting up a scene inspired by the 70s.

A Critical Introduction into Photography by Liz Wells (2009)

My next view point was a review of Paul Grahams photobook ‘The Present’ by Colin Pantall, he takes a very realistic approach to the ‘Decisive Moment’ and the work of Graham is very contemporary and relatable to society today. His work consists of miserable and busy New Yorkers going about their business, the photos are lined up very well and the use of shade and light is very effective. I interpreted his work to be exploring the relationship between humans and how many people we pass on a daily basis, a fleeting connection that is there and also not there at all. “a street with moments so decisively indecisive that we dont know what we are looking at or for”. His photobook consists of 114 pages set out in diptychs and triptychs “Everything is shot in middle-distance Graham-vision and together the pictures form an awkward shifting narrative that is photographic in intent and execution”. This is one of the similarities to Cartier – Bresson’s work, his use of  symmetry and composition was what made his work unique, he documented subjects aristically. I would tend to agree with this viewpoint more in the sense that there is something special about all the people we pass everyday and how society as a whole is okay with everyone being wrapped up in their own worlds, to me that is a realistic decisive moment, especially in the 21st centuary.

Photoeye Magazine Review by Colin Pantall on the Photobook ‘The Present’ by Paul Graham

Zouhair Ghazzal takes the viewpoint that the ‘Decisve moment’ is a myth and a cliché, which again, the same as above I believe is relavent to today, back in 1932 life may have been more simplistic and innocent, where as today we do not take as much pleasure in the simple things in life, we take them for granted too much.  Ghazzal also makes the great remark that the ‘Decisive moment’ is anectodal, which I enthusiastically agree with something that is personal to the subject like a family photo infront of a unique building is a ‘Decisive moment’ to them, but probably not anyone else. Something that the photographer likes and relates to is personal to the photographer and is a ‘decisive moment’ to them but not the rest of us. This is something I belive has gotten misconstrued as a ‘decisive moment’ is not for everyone, its for the people involved with the making of a photo even if the emotion portrayed in the photo represents an entire nation e.g. war photojournalism. “At its core, the decisive moment is indeed mostly anecdotic—composed of short accounts of humorous or interesting incidents. It is as if in the time flux that constitutes the essence of our lives, the decisive moment intervenes at a particular juncture—in that fraction of a second when the anecdotal moment reveals best the flux-as-a-whole”. Ghazzal also mentions the use of symmetry, light and darkness and gestures as to what makes Cartier – Bresson’s work so effective, it is the movements of others that reallty make the ‘Decisive moment’ decisive whithin his work. “In other words, the decisive moment works best when the sudden cut in time and space that the photograph operates through the release of the shutter is meaningful, as it narrates to us in a single frame the before and after; while other photographs of the decisive type remain anecdotal, with no precise meaning, or with no meaning at all, relying instead on the juxtaposition of bodily gestures with symmetries created by light and space. Another thing that Ghazzal mentions is that the mere fact that these events are unlikely to be repeated is what makes them ‘decisive’ but I’d have to disagree with this point, in theory anything can be recreated. “The decisive moment is therefore that infinitely small and unique moment in time which cannot be repeated, and that only the photographic lens can capture”.

Zouhair Ghazzal Article

I feel that as a photographic stragedy, the ‘Decisvice moment’ is a good way of making people more aware of their surroundings and teaching people that you can capture the decisive or indecisve moment but in my own opinion I feel its a lot of nothing, as a collective theme I feel it doesn’t work, it is personal to the people involoved and therefore should be left to wedding photography for example. The decisive moment there is extremely applicable and effective but as an overall concept I believe it is more a myth. Yes, we can appreciate a nice photo that is aesthetically pleasing but the decisve moment isn’t as relavent in today’s society, everyone and anyone can capture a decisive moment but it’s only decisive moment to them. And if I were to capture a decisve moment, it can be re-created by someonone else in a different country, especially if I post it to social media, in the 1930s they had just a camera! Now people can capture a moment and then chop and change it using either photoshop/facetune to make it something it wasnt in the begining, therefore it loses its decisivness in my opinion. Henri Cartier- Bresson was able to capture something unique and wonderful in his time and has inspired photographers for generations, but as time and technology changes, should we re-evaluated what is relavant to us now?

The History of Photography – Henri Cartier- Bresson

Magnum Photos – Henri Cartier- Bresson Profile

Henri Carier- Bresson Foundation

MoMa Exhibition – Henri Cartier- Bresson


3.3 What matters is to look


I have been asked to find a good viewpoint, high up. I must start by looking at the things closest to me in the foreground. Then pay attention to the details in the middle distance and then things towarsds the horizon, I have to look at the whole view together, including the sky in my observation and take a photo of it.


This photo has been taken from my upstairs bathroom window. I looked to the things closest to my foreground, that being, the spire of my conservatory and the top of the hedge that runs along my fence, separating my house and the playing field. I debated adding the window sill into my forground but then my actual view of the horizon would be smaller. In the middle distance I have the trees and more importantly the one blown down and laying gently on the grass. I can also see some shadows from the sun shining against the tallest trees. And for the horizon I have the school buildings, a telephone line, some more trees and of course the blue sky.

Overall I find this photo effective and by doing this exercise I have become more aware of details, my surroundings and my foreground, middle and horizon.


3.2 Trace


 I have been asked to research a number of photographers who record the trace of movement within their work. I then must use slow shutter speeds, the multiple exposure function or another technique inspired by my research. I must try to record the trace of movement within the frame. I have also been asked to document the process and settings to my learning log.

Robert Capa

Born in 1913 to 1954, war photojournalist Robert Capa, originally born as Endre Ernö Friedmann was known for his distinct and realistic images of war and for founding the Magnum cooperative in partnership with others, principally Frenchman Henri Cartier-Bresson, Englishman George Rodger, and American David Seymour (1911–56) in 1947. He followed troops into battle and his most famous work is ‘D Day at the Omaha beach’ Normandy, France, June 6th, 1944. The grainy blur of his photos, although accidental, ended up becoming a style of photography.

Hiroshi Sugimoto

Japanese photographer Hiroshi Sugimoto is known for his series ‘Theatres’ in which he used the bulb function on his camera, he opened the shutter at the beginning of a film and closed it as the credits rolled. This gave a beautiful effect; the cinema seats and surroundings are gently lit and the centre of the image where the film would have played is white. I really found this inspiring as it left you to wonder what film had been played or if you wished you could image your own favourite film playing against the white screen. “I’m not interested in people at all (laughs)” – Hiroshi Sugimoto quoted in Bashkoff 2000.

Article by Kevin Riordan

He was born in 1948, Tokyo Japan and is 71 years of age. In 1970 he graduated from St Paul’s University, Tokyo and then in 1974 he graduated from Art Centre College of Design, Los Angeles and then later that year moved to New York where he still lives today.

Guy Bourdin

I have previously looked into Guy Bourdin when completing project 2 and found his work very inspiring, his view that the product should be secondary to the image in regard to fashion items, Is exactly what I believe and he shaped that view for all of the fashion industry and for photographers who work either in advertising or editorial fashion. The way he used photography to tell a story is so fascinating especially when it comes to fashion as there is far more than just the items being worn. The way he used photography to tell a story is what inspired me to tell my story, I aim to this with my work and incorporate a little bit of fashion into it as well.


Francesca Woodman

American, Francesca Woodman was born in 1958 had a brief but talented life. Her work featured mainly herself or other female subjects, some of her work was blurred for effect due to long exposures therefore the faces of some of her subjects are blurred and merge into the background. Some of her other work includes women naked or clothed but she mainly stuck to black and white portrait photography. Unfortunately, she died by suicide at the young age of 22 in 1981. Gerry Badger did a great article on her work and her possible motivation behind her work, “Woodman’s oeuvre seems to have informed by the apparently inconsolable thought (for her) that society’s cards are irrevocably stacked against her sex. That no matter how hard she might try to escape constriction by gender, only in her art could she be free” a feminist in her own right, although she was not widely recognised during her life time, politically in the 1970s there was much going on and issues regarding women’s rights were prevalent. Although in an article I read by the Guardian that Woodman’s, parents and friend are interviewed in that say she had a witty sense of humour and was a joy to be around, “Let me just emphasise: she had a great sense of humour. There’s a great deal of wit in them, and irony.” Her friend went on to say “We used to make fun of the feminists, but we were feminists ourselves. We read such a lot.”. A lot of woodman’s work can be viewed as melancholic and this is what her father had to say regarding her work “Her life wasn’t a series of miseries. She was fun to be with. It’s a basic fallacy that her death is what she was all about, and people read that into the photographs. They psychoanalyse them. Young people in particular feel she’s talking about them, somehow. They see the photographs as very personal. But that’s not the way I approach them. They’re often funny.”. I would tend to disagree with his view as I do find the photos personal but I can also see the funny side, her work is raw and honest and to me that is very appealing, whatever her motive behind the pictures, it is still fascinating how she could transcribe her emotions and view so clearly through an image. Her personality is in each image, regardless if she is the subject or not and she knew how to add a touch of her personality into her work which is unique. I have found researching Francesca Woodman very interesting and I will take a lot of this research into my work, I think I might focus on mental health when I come to do my work.


Christian Sampson

January 2016, a series of images was loaded onto Facebook those photos then went viral since they have an eerily true representation of mental health disorders. These viral photos were taken by Christian Sampson who is from Peru, Indiana but now lives in Illinois, Chicago. He took this series as part of an advanced photography class that he took, “[The collection] actually started out as physical illnesses like cancer, but I wanted to create something that people struggled with every day but couldn’t see,” he tells The Huffington Post Canada. His series is so emotive and relatable and as someone who has suffered with mental health issues like anxiety and depression it is so refreshing and relatable to see my emotions being presented in a physical way. He wanted to promote mental health and how dangerous it is to not look after yourself, “Just because it can’t be seen, it doesn’t mean damage can’t be done,” Sampson says. “That’s why the series is so dark, because I want to make the point that people suffer from this.”  “Mental health is an important topic for me because I have people in my life that live with it every day.”.

Sampson now photographs weddings and portraits and is doing very well for him self as he now has 10.6K followers on Instagram.

After doing my research, I decided to experiment with the bulb function on my camera. I googled how to set it up and grabbed my phone torch, I was going to try light painting. I turned my torch on and off in between the shutter opening and closing. I had set my camera to 30sec exposure with the intention of moving the light around instead of moving the camera. I started off moving my light around tracing my body shape. I then turned the light on and off in different parts of the frame to give a dotted effect, having looked at the images I feel they are not adequate, and this was very much an experimental day.

Looking more at the bigger picture and what effect I was hoping to achieve seeing as the light painting didn’t go to plan I decided to look more into Francesca Woodman, as I found her work very intriguing and I found her work relatable as having a disability can majorly impact on my mental health as I am limited to what I can do. Christian Sampson also had a major influence in deciding to do mental health, I just hope I can portray the emotions as well as he did.  My main aim is to use my personal experience of how I feel as a guide on how I will re-create these feelings as an image, while incorporating some psychological drama.

Planning, execution and final images

Once I had a rough idea of my concept I had to work out how to portray it. I decided like Francesca Woodman I would use myself as the subject. Setting up for this series was a lot of work, I chose a black background for more of a dramatic feel and in order for me to take the photos I needed to set up the camera, so I could preview the images before I clicked the shutter. I decided that the use of mirror would be beneficial to metaphorically if you will reflect my emotions, it also served as a preview of the images, so I could line myself up and make sure the pose was going to give the desired effect.

Once I set the camera up on the tripod, I set a vintage mirror on a chair and angled it in line with my camera, checking through my viewfinder to ensure I would be in frame. My Nikon D5300 has WIFI therefore I hooked my phone up to the camera and used the app to preview and take the photos. Here is a few photos of my set up,


My first few attempts were very difficult as I was getting used to what effect I wanted. I had to work out how to move my body in a way that would create a blur but not to be too blurry and unrecognisable, yet I had to be quick enough to fit a movement into 30 seconds. I chose my clothes very carefully when deciding to take these photos, I wanted to create the vibe that I was in a different era, so I chose to wear a linen top with square neckline that first became fashionable in the 18th century, I wanted to add a little more concept to these images than just psychological drama.

The following are my final images,






I feel these images are an accurate representation of mental health and feelings of being trapped within my own body. I believe the images are effective at communicating my idea and that they are of a good standard. However, I wish I had lined up slightly better. The deliberate blur effect is very effective, and I am happy with how it turned out I also think that the choice of top was a good one as you would not be too sure that this was taken in this era, it adds more dimension to the photos.

I also tried this technique with my walking stick and wheelchair to see if they would work well within this concept, but I decided that they didn’t, I have added them below as I still believe they work but do not go with the series above.







2.4 Woodpecker


I have been asked to find a subject in front of a background of depth, I must then take a very close viewpoint, zoom in and take the shot. I then must without changing the framing/focal length set my focus to infinity and take another shot.

I then must without moving the camera, select an aperture one stop above and find a point of focus that will give acceptable sharpness throughout the shot.

Planning and execution

I planned on using railings in my local park as my subject so decided to do some research on how I would set my camera focus to infinity, after a few google searches I found how to focus manually on my Nikon d5300. Nikon D3500 for Dummies

I set my camera settings and headed to the park, I took the first two photos with ease and they turned out well but as I moved on to try the third and setting my focus to infinity I began to really struggle. I could not find where infinity was on my lens and I tried doing it manually just by looking through the view finder and I still couldn’t get an overall sharpness.  I was then too cold so I decided to leave it and try again the next day.

The below are my poor attempts…


I went back to the park and decided to try again and to my luck they turned out better, not great but better, I really struggled with trying to get the image at an overall sharpness.

The below are my final images…

dsc_0268This is the first image I am close to the subject, the fence and the background has depth. I feel this turned out well and the detailing in the wood is very effective.

dsc_0267This is the second image having not changed the framing or focal length. I feel this has turned out well also. This was taken at f/5.6.

dsc_0269The final photo is one I really struggled with and it is not totally effective there are still some blurry areas of this image but I could not figure out how to achieve sharpness all round, I went up an f/stop to f/6.3.


I found this task very difficult and I am still not quite sure how to achieve complete sharpness but I found this task very interesting and has made me realise the importance of focusing on specific subjects. I really liked working in Manual focus and I look forward to experimenting with it in the future.

1.4 Frame



I have been asked to use the viewfinder grid display setting on my camera, which adds a grid to the viewfinder so you can line your images up properly. I have been asked to take a good couple of photos, composing each shot within a single section of the viewfinder. I have also been asked to ignore the rest of frame. When the photos have been taken I have been asked to select 8 photos and present them as a single composite image.

My thoughts

I have no clue how to get a viewfinder grid display on my camera so ill have to look into that. I am intrigued in this as I struggle with lining things up and if this helps to make me think more about composition and framing I will be very pleased. I also have no clue how to take 8 photos and make them into one, but I love a challenge.

Planning & execution

 I googled how to get the viewfinder grid display on my camera. I then took a few photos to test it out. I then re-read the brief and thought of going out my back garden and playing around to get a feel of what I was going to do. I decided that to make the set of photos sit well together I would focus on nature.  I then went on to take my photos.

I have grouped these photos to demonstrate how I focused on different sections of the frame. I hope to pick on certain photos and add it to my final image. These are not all the images I took but I wanted to show how I took multiple photos with different scenarios

My final 8 images,

Untitled-1.4 collage

The above images I feel work together as a set and as individuals. I tried on each row to have differential photos so they would sit well not just together but alone.. Throughout you can see different textures all from nature. Each photo has been lined up in a different way.

In reference to the image as a whole I feel I could of lined them up as a row of two and four going down as I have a big white gap where a ninth image should be. I was very unsure if I should of added another image in to make the set look more complete but it was not what I had been asked in the brief so I left it. I used photoshop to put all the images together. I found it very difficult but I got there in the end.

I set my camera (Nikon D5300) to automatic and took the photos. My main objective was to try a few photos where the subject was the same but the position within the frame was different, as demonstrated above. I then went and tried changing the subject and framing. I found the framing very helpful when lining up.

The first image in the first row is lined up in the bottom centre of the viewfinder. As I was told to forget about the rest of the frame I did so but I believe this image works well as a whole. The branches reach up to the left and right corners of the frame.

The second image in the first row is lined up in the bottom left hand corner. I was focused on the bright orange leaf that was laying on the ground. I believe this photos worked really well as the path leads your eye on up the frame. This was completely unintentional and I believe I achieved a gestalt with this image in particular.

The third image in the first row is lined up in the right hand middle of the frame. I feel again this image works well, the lines in particular are interesting as you can clearly see the Buddha is perched on a wall.

The fourth image in the middle row is lined up in the right hand middle of the frame again. I knot this is not of nature specifically but it is made out of wood a natural material. I feel the framing in this in particular is what makes it effective. the reflection of the camera in the mirror and the background within that is very effective.

The fifth image in the middle row is lined up in the top right hand corner of the frame. I was focusing on the log. I find this image to work well as the leaves give texture and the wall guides your eye to the log.

The sixth image in the middle row is lined up in the top portion of the frame. I wanted to stop focusing on the corners of the image and focus more on the sections within the frame. I and this image to work well because the tree branch has been singled out and is the main focus.

The seventh image in the last row is lined up in the left hand section of the frame. the buddha again is clearly perched on the wall and in the background of this photo we can see more nature.

The final eighth image in the last row is lined up in the top left hand corner of the frame. The branch is reaching down the frame which I find effective and in this photo unlike the other photo of a single branch we can see another tree in the distance.

Overall I am happy with how these images turned out.



Assignment 1. ‘Square mile’



For my first assignment I have been given, six to twelve photographs to convey my response to the welsh concept Y Filltir Sgwar ‘The Square Mile’. This concept deals with how photographers have found inspiration in the environment around them. In Professor Mike Pearson’s words “– site of discovery and putting names to things – people and places – working with difference and similitude – favourite places, places to avoid – neighbours and their habits, gestures and stories – textures, smells – also of play, imagination, experiment – finding the best location for doing things – creating worlds under our own control, fantasy landscapes’”  (Photography 1 Expressing your vision course pdf).

I am required to ‘use this sense of place’ as a basis for beginning my assignment, there is emphasis on not taking individual photos, but to try and link each image to collectively communicate my idea. This statement left me wondering how I would convey such a thing. I then learned that this idea is actually known as ‘conceptual photography’ I ended up looking at the Tate online gallery where it gives a brief statement about conceptual photography “the term ‘conceptual photography’ began to be used in the 1960s, coinciding with the early explorations into video art and Conceptual Art. The phrase can refer to any use of photography within the Conceptual Art movement”. “The aim was to make simple, realistic images of the artwork that looked as documentary as possible, artists adopted this approach as far back as the early twentieth century”.  Tate – conceptual photography

My thoughts

In the brief of this assignment, I was given a list of artists to look into. I found that each photographer had a different style and concept when it came to photography. I feel this really benefited me as I got to experience different ways of working, which in turn gave me more opportunities to look into other artists. On the Tate website linked above there were also some artists mentioned that I look forward to reviewing.

Keith Arnett 1930-2008

Keith Arnett was a British conceptual artist. He lived and worked in London, Liverpool, Yorkshire and Monmouthshire. He had studied painting at Oxford School of Art in the early 1950s and later at the Royal Academy Schools in London. When I looked at some of his work I found it simplistic yet so effective at provoking thought. I found his piece ‘Self-Burial’ so intriguing and quite of a childish nature. I related to it in the want to escape. My favourite of his work is ‘Walking the Dog’ the concept that dogs are like their owners. Being a dog owner myself I found this an interesting idea. He spent three years of his life documenting dog and owner, going about their business with the same expressionless faces, I  love the idea of consistency throughout a series of images and may use this when I come to do my assignment. He has introduced me to minimalism and land art. I find minimalism fascinating and went on to research more about it.

Minimalism (definition) “design or style in which the simplest and fewest elements are used to create the maximum effect”  Collins dictionary – minimalism  I went onto the OCA library and searched for minimalistic photographers and an article by The British Journal of Photography came up about a past UCA Rochester student, Jade Perry. She followed a minimalistic approach to her photography and began exploring “the notion of beauty with a humorous interpretation highlighting the “stupidity of our drive for perfection”  which I completely agree with! At the start of the article she is asked what she is inspired by, she goes on to say “the rigid and minimalistic style” of photographers such as Bernd and Hilla Becher, Bettina Von Zwehl and Rineke Dijkstra”. The British Journal of Photography article on Jade Perry  I went on to research these minimalistic photographers and can see a consistent style within each that correlates with Jade Perry’s unique style.

Rineke Dijkstra and Bettina Von Zwehl

Both photographers have an interesting relationship with their subject, each photographer wants to capture an intensity from their subject within the frame. Both styles of photography are quite similar, very minimalistic and focused entirely on the subject, with complete white backgrounds being a common occurrence.

Rineke Dijkstra was born in 1959, Denmark, she began as a conventional portrait photographer but gained international recognition with a series of beach images consisting of a single figure against the sea from a low angle which she made from 1992 till 1996. The most famous, named ‘Kolozberg, Poland July 1992’ was known to have looked like Sandro Botticelli’s ‘Birth of Venus and was shown in the Tate Gallery. Online Tate Gallery of Rineke Dijkstra

Another series consisted of men and women who have just been through a life – threatening experience. The men, bullfighters from Portugal, where the object is to hold the bull down rather than kill it. The women are mothers holding their babies a short time after childbirth, still wearing the maternity underwear. Both are depicted against totally white backgrounds.  Online Tate Gallery of Rineke Dijkstra – mother and child

Bettina Von Zwehl was born in 1971, Munich, Germany. She got a BA (hons) in Photography in 1994 and then went on to get an MA in Fine Art Photography in 1997. The slight difference between these two photographers are that Von Zwehl likes to take  more historic approach to her photos. “She specialises in 19th century studio methodology, her practice is an ongoing enquiry into the possibilities of portraiture and the descriptive power of the format”.   Artimage Reference for Bettina Von Zwehl

I feel as though I have learned how important planning is and how to not over think things, that less is more especially in circumstances like portraiture, I look forward to experimenting in the future but I feel that I shouldn’t do portraiture for my first assignment as my initial response was to focus on land art.

Land art 

Land art was part of the wider conceptual art movement in the 1960s and 1970s”  also known as ‘earth art’ it was a way of using the earth to create artwork then document it with photography. “The most famous land art work is Robert Smithson’s Spiral Jetty of 1970, an earthwork built out into the Great Salt Lake in the USA. Though some artists such as Smithson used mechanical earth-moving equipment to make their artworks, other artists made minimal and temporary interventions in the landscape such as Richard Long who simply walked up and down until he had made a mark in the earth” Tate online Gallery – Land art

I am truly fascinated by this idea of creating art that’s man made yet can be left to be destroyed by the elements. Its not being made in a classroom or protected in a gallery its simply some earth being moved. I feel this is a true crossover and a great example to anyone who thinks art and photography don’t go together. If something won’t be preserved then it must be documented and photography is the perfect way to do it.

Robert Smithson and Richard long

Robert Smithson born in 1938 and died in 1973. He was an American sculptor and land artist, he studied at the Art Students League, New York from 1955-1956. “His practice as an artist had its origins in the Minimalist preoccupation with the context around the object and the same mistrust of the marketable art object that had been one of the motivations for Conceptual art”. He had began taking photographs and getting maps of the locations he visited. He seemed especially interested in geology and the earth itself. His most successful ‘earth art’ was the one mentioned above from the Tate online gallery reference, Spiral Jetty 1970. It consisted of him moving lots of basalt to the Great Salt Lake in Utah and arranging the basalt in a spiral shape of mass proportion. To this day it is still there although the tide comes in and it becomes temporarily out of sight. “One aspect of Smithson’s thinking was the idea of ‘entropy’, that the world inevitably moves towards disorganization, and his work as an artist incorporates this”. I found this fascinating as it is a true representation of life, the world moves on and things go from orderly to disorderly. Oxford Dictionary of Modern and Contemporary Art – Robert Smithson

British artist Richard Long was born in 1945. He studied at the West of England College of Art from 1962-1965 and then at St Martin’s School of Art from 1966-1968. His work ‘A Line Made By Walking (1967) which is briefly mentioned above in the Tate online gallery reference, really did consist of him walking up and down a hill, till a line was drawn in the grass. Its so simplistic yet effective, there is something so appealing about his work. “The work becomes a compound of action, trace, and documentation”. This then went on to become a regular thing and Long began collecting twigs or sticks to be used in the gallery showing. He then went on to use mud and clay to do paintings which in my opinion are very effective. Long brought nature inside and placed it in a unique form, he separates the busy world from it, so we end up forced to appreciate and acknowledge it’s beauty. Oxford Dictionary of Modern and Contemporary Art – Richard Long

Both artists are very minimalistic and like to achieve the most impact on the spectators. I feel both artists have shown me how less is more and that you don’t need twelve different things in order for a shoot to go well. I love that they have incorporated earth into their work, we take nature for granted and this is a fresh reminder to look after our planet. This idea of making history which is then documented is so inspiring, even if its as simple as walking up a hill multiple times, it makes you question who walked there before, if anyone!

Gawain Barnard 

Born in 1976, Welsh photographer Gawain Bernard studied at the University of Wales where he got his BA hons degree 1996-1999 and his MFA Documentary photography 2007-2009. He also studied at Cardiff’s University to get his PGCE in 2004-2005. He has also been shortlisted for the 2018 Athens Photo Festival and is currently a teacher at the University of South Wales. My favourite of his works is ‘Tomorrow 6am’ the use of nature is so simple yet effective. How the lighting really portrays the mood of how sleepy and quite things would be, it is a great thing to reflect on myself, what lighting I could use to get a desired effect when I come to do my assignment. I find how each individual person isn’t looking into the camera very effective, it gives a sense of reflection; almost like they are too busy thinking of what the day ahead will bring.

Tina Barney

When people say that there is a distance, a stiffness in my photographs, that the people look like they do not connect, my answer is, that this is the best we can do. This inability to show physical affection is in our heritage” – Tina Barney. In this particular quote I find it fascinating how honest she is and in my opinion she’s right, family dynamics and human relationships in general are not perfect. She focused on what surrounded her, she took realistic candid’s in a large-format, an 8-by-10-view camera enabled her to create highly detailed images that kept their focus and vibrancy even when made into four-by-five-foot prints. She was one of the first photographers to present colour on a grand scale. I find this kind of realism very intriguing there’s often the sense that your subject must pose or that you should stage a background but this is very normal, unexpected and in the moment. She has a kind of minimalistic approached in the sense that she is looking for one thing when regarding her subjects and that is for them to be themselves and show her and the camera something no on else has.

Tom Hunter

Tom Hunter reconstructs stories, memories and myths to create a psycho-geographical landscape in his local neighbourhood of east London. Born in 1965, Dorset; Hunter has a clear passion for the mythical world in his work we see gods and goddess, dusk lighting with lots nature, he has been known to recreate other works of art as well. My favourite collection of photos are titled ‘Unheralded Stories’ this series consists of whimsical images, dimly light with a single figure as the subject, these photos are quite simple yet effective. My favourite from this collection would be ‘Anchor and Hope’ based on the structure of Andrew Wyeth’s Christina’s World, 1948. A young women lays in a nude dress surrounded by a green field staring at the horizon in which we see some dilapidated buildings. These images make me question the story behind them; did she used to live in those buildings? Perhaps she grew up their and played as a child? I find this work very engaging and would like to achieve this with my own work. His photos are almost like individual stories, which is what makes them to engaging I believe. This work is quite similar to Rineke Dijkstra and Bettina Von Zwehl in regards to their being one subject as the main focus. Tom Hunter – Unheralded Stories

Peter Mansell

A former student of OCA, Mansell took his assignment on landscapes to a different level. He decided to show how a disabled person gets around, one of my favourite photos of his is the scuff marks on the bottom of the wall, the effect of having and using a wheelchair at home, I relate to this very much as I myself am disabled and use a walking stick so this was a fascinating concept to me, I may refer back to this in future, as its personal to me. Another collection that I love is ‘Paralysis Unseen’ every photo that is taking is something that he either has to do to himself or something that he uses to his aid as he has no choice. His photos are of the stuff people don’t see and more specifically don’t want to see and I really relate to this, I am classed as disabled but am not in a wheelchair therefore people presume I am lying and see what they want to see. Personal photos like this are so important as it promotes awareness to those that are sick that they are not alone and lets healthy people know how difficult times can be.Peter Mansell – Paralysis Unseen

Jodie Taylor

Taylor, also a former OCA student, focused on her childhood and the theme of nostalgia. I really love this idea because we all know photography and nostalgia go hand in hand, I love looking at old photos of my family and friends. “For this project I want to photograph places that form memories from my childhood. I am currently living back in the house I grew back in after several years away from the family home so there are a lot of memories within the house itself and surrounding areas”Jodie Taylor. This idea that our childhood memories shape who we are, is so intriguing to me. When looking at her work I felt really inspired, I’ve spent the majority of my life living in the same town that my family grew up in so there are a good few generations in this town and a lot of history. I feel inspired to do something relating to my hometown.

Initial ideas

One initial idea I had was to follow my mammy for a day. The bond between us was to be the focus of my ‘Square Mile’ as I still live with and speak to her daily, but I didn’t feel it fitted the brief well and thought it could be a little too easy and that I would struggle to find real context apart from the fact that I love her. Rineke Dijkstra’s work referenced above ‘mother and child’ was really what provoked this idea. When looking into Keith Arnett, which then lead to me looking into minimalism and land art, I was thinking of a way of applying land art to the ‘Square Mile’ and I thought, instead of creating land art I would go and photograph the land art that’s all ready in my city and what better place than the Free Derry Corner in the Bogside where I also went to school as a child. This gave me a personal aspect and when looking into Jody Taylor I loved the idea of going back to my childhood, it gives context because of the history of the Troubles and all the murals now painted in memory of those who died, and would challenge me to try something new as I have never photographed the murals before.


Extra references not mentioned above are as follows,

Keith Arnett – Reference

Gawain Barnard – Reference

Tina Barney – Reference

Tom Hunter – Reference

Peter Mansell – Reference

Jodie Taylor – Reference

Idea to planning

After much thought and research I have decided to focus on my hometown, I have walked down the same streets for years; my childhood memories are littered everywhere. I feel I should focus on the artwork around the town depicting the history. I am hoping to take multiple pictures and then eliminate them down to twelve. Knowing that Keith Arnett, Jody Taylor, Land Art and Minimalism have all inspired me I decided to look over my research and write down in my notebook that I will be taking with me on the shoot, all the things I wish to incorporate into these images. What things inspired me from each person or genre. (please find image attached of the list below) I then decided to write down where I was going to go specifically to get good photos. I have planned to do this the next day and have arranged for my friend to come with me. I decided to shoot in automatic mode as I was told to do so in the brief and will bring two lenses one telephoto lens and 55mm lens. My camera is a Nikon D5300 and I have decided not to bring my tripod.

handwritten notes on square mile

Execution of task

I went and shot my photos unfortunately it was raining but I still think the photos turned out well. I went to all the locations listed above as I had planned and overall the shoot went well. I feel that planning in advance was vital for things going smoothly and I will continue to do so in the future. The one thing I regret is not taking my tripod as some photos are shaky and not well aligned. The following are my contact sheets. I deleted the photos that were either blurry or had water marks on them because of the rain but with those gone I took around 100 photos in total. The following are my contact sheets,



Final set of photographs


Known as the ‘Gásyard’ locally this was my school hall that we had our annual discos, Christmas plays etc.


This is the original mechanics store on the Lecky road and has been there as long as I can remember, it is opposite the school I went to.


This is known locally as ‘The Fly Over’ the decorations on it have all been done through community projects and my old school.


This is a dilapidated building that has been burnt out multiple times when trouble has gotten bad.


John “Caker” Casey 1946-2000 painted the slogan “You Are Now Entering Free Derry” this wall is actually a gable wall of row of houses that where bombed and this wall is all that is left and remains iconic.


This is a close up of one the murals, this is a realistic scene to what it was like during the troubles.


Here is a wide angle shot along the walls featuring my friend.


This photo is of a young Thornhill College student who rallied for peace during the time of the troubles.


This is one of the houses in which a mural has been painted on, as you can see there has been a fire in which a window has been burnt out, this shows that there is still trouble today.


This photo is of a very important mural again depicting what it would have really been like back then.


This photo shows that all the people wanted to begin with was civil rights, there was a march were both Protestants and Catholics marched for civil rights – peacefully. The police at the time attacked the protestors brutally and it ended in chaos.


This mural is to show peace and love to one and another regardless of religion, ethnicity and abilities.


Final Thoughts

I feel I have conveyed my childhood and my surroundings well, these photos are what I would have seen at least twice a day going to school. It was weird being back there, I would have gone on mini school trips walking through these streets, had festivals and done community projects. When doing my research I stated I liked the idea of consistency throughout a series of images, I feel in my work that I stayed true to what I stated. Through-out my work you can see wall after wall decorated with murals, this is a running theme. Artwork is the consistency, not only does it make the images eye catching, the vibrant colours make the city eye catching. I  feel I stayed mostly true to what I wanted to incorporate when originally planning my shoot, there was colour, a simplistic style in the sense that the murals do the talking and it is thought provoking; what was it like to be living with all that fear of being shot or your loved ones getting hurt in the cross fire etc. I am not sure if these images are nostalgic to those who don’t live here in Derry but they certainly are nostalgic to me. The ‘Your Are Now Entering Free Derry’ wall is not normally pink, it has been painted pink to publicise the fact that its Organ Donation week, the month before the wall was bright yellow to raise awareness of Sarcoma cancer. It is normally white, but ever since I can remember it has been painted different colours for different reasons for example pride month. I feel I could of lined up some photos better, the use of my tripod would have greatly improved this outcome. Teaching myself how to create a contact sheet was very hard, I mainly used google and YouTube as my main resource as I had never made a contact sheet before. The most difficult thing was narrowing down my photos to 12, I spent almost 2 hours trying to pick which photos would convey my idea best. I kept picking favourites, that didn’t necessarily say anything about my childhood. If I was to do this again I would take my tripod and spend more time getting better quality photos rather than rushing around while the rain was off. I would line up my photos better and wait for a sunny day as there were very few tourists and I love seeing other peoples reactions to the city. This concept was very out of my comfort zone, I don’t really photograph my surroundings unless I’m in a new city, I prefer to photograph people. I was a tourist in my own city and it felt very strange!

EYV – Evaluation

The above is my evaluation.

Reflection on Formative Feedback

In my tutor report, I completely agree with everything my tutor said. It was mentioned I needed more self-initiated research and I will make more use of my resources in the future. It was suggested that I try to apply a consistent visual strategy to my final work to give an overall perspective and composition, I will try to apply this in the future also. He very kindly included two artists for me to go look into which I find very helpful and look forward to researching them in the future.


If you have any feedback please comment below on what you think of my first assignment, it would be much appreciated!