Assignment 4 – Whatever happened to….? (First draft)


A forgotten building lies a mere 200 yards from my home, almost completely hidden by a screen of brambles, nettles and rampant buddleia. It was once a care home for elderly dementia sufferers, but was suddenly closed in 2007 as a result of two consecutive very poor CSCI inspections. The twenty two residents were transferred to other accommodation in the Swindon area almost overnight and the building has been unoccupied and slowly deteriorating ever since.

Very few confirmed details are readily available about the reasons for the closure and  However, it appears that it comprehensively failed an inspection in November 2006, partly because of concerns about how the staff were treating residents and partly because it did not meet several of the recently imposed health and safety requirements, such as each person having their own bathroom. Six months later, the inspectors arrived again, and were not happy with progress on the measures imposed by the previous report. They therefore deemed the home unsuitable for its residents and took the owners to court. It appears that the owners of the care home were either unwilling or unable to fund the required improvements and they applied for bankruptcy, while the residents were farmed off to any local care home which had space.

Throughout the world, the proportion of older people in society is increasing and resources are being limited. It is hard not to be aware of the difficulties we, as society, are beginning to face in securely and comfortably housing our elders. At least one in six care homes in the UK is close to bankruptcy, according to a study  by Moore Stephens and while 70,000 new care home places will be required over the next 8 years, (The Lancet (2017) the rise in the National Living Wage AND Brexit are having a significant effect on the finances of care home owners and the availability of care workers. These macro level problems can be seen at the individual level in this series and ask us to  question whether our older people are being treated with the respect and consideration they deserve.

Whatever happened to…..?

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Individual images







Assignment 4 – decisions about editing

I made a second visit to the location of my assignment ( a derelict care home close to where I live) this morning with a fellow student (thanks Kate for coming along so I didn’t feel so nervous that I might be robbed, murdered, or fall through a hole in the ceiling).  I now have enough images to make a selection for the assignment. Here is the long list, and I plan to accompany it by a series of words or phrases taken from generic care home advertisements, along the lines of person centred care, individual, respect, understanding, etc. The assignment will also include an introduction explaining the history and background of what happened to this home for dementia patients, and my aim is to ask viewers to consider how the residents might have felt about being moved from a place they were familiar with, notwithstanding the concerns about poor quality care, to totally new homes at only a day’s notice.


Exercise 4.5 – Fictional texts: Holly goes off-piste, again

Lately I have been reading King Kong Theory, by Virginie Despentes (2010), which is about how women are still required to conform to what the patriarchy thinks they should be, and any woman who does not accede the stereotypes of Mother or Whore is considered a target for abuse. A glaring example of this in in today’s news – it is reported that Laura Kuenssburg, the BBC Political Reporter has been given a bodyguard to protect her at the Labour Party conference. Various politicos are opining that it is a publicity stunt (though quite why Kuenssburg needs publicity is not clear), but many people have gone public to support her position and vulnerability, which was illustrated by a chorus of hisses at a general election meeting earlier this year. Yvette Cooper, Diane Abbott and Harriet Harman have all roundly and loudly condemned the threats, and all three are no strangers to online bullying themselves.

I find this all very dispiriting. In sixty years, have we really moved feminism so little towards the mainstream that people feel it is perfectly ok to vilify and defeminise any woman who appears to be anything other than an unopinionated doormat.

So, in support of Ms Kuenssburg and all the other women who are routinely insulted, bullied, threatened and objectified both online and in real life (have a look at the website the Everyday Sexism Project if you don’t know what I mean) I have put together this series of words and images All the images were taken of a woman by a woman, and about women, for our own entertainment. They are a reflection of the confused stereotyping of women that is so prevalent in modern society.


  • monochrome and inverted images of the same person – black and white viewpoints; stereotyping
  • gold leaf behind the images – the often unacknowledged/partially hidden value that women offer to society
  • faceless woman –  Everywoman
  • pedestal and wings – angel and demon
  • the words (in set below) – some of the names that women are called to synthesise them as a group, one that is different from men.

I also tried a second idea, as a single series of images without the gold leaf, which is shown below and which I am calling The Dichotomy of Being Female.

two side of woman

Finally, I haven’t a clue if these work, but I had a lot of fun making them. (Also, in an ideal world I would re -photograph the individual gold-leaf images, at a higher f-stop, as they are a little fuzzy around the edges.)


Despentes, Virginie (2010 e-edition) King Kong Theory. London: Serpent’s Tail.

Some experiments in homage to Albarran Cabrera

Let’s not beat about the bush here. I love the work of Spanish duo Albarran Cabrera, and in particular the way it combines unusual media, a laser sharp focus on the Moment, the Japanese influences and the way they have taught themselves photography by reading (a lot) and just trying things out. There’s a very helpful video on their website about how they work, as well as an excellent article explaining the theory behind several of their recent series here.

I’ve written briefly before about their series Kairos, in which they use gold leaf to produce a visual divide between one moment and the next, using the Japanese idea of kintsukuroi (see below).


A subsequent series, which is currently being shown on Instagram is called The Mouth of Krishna, and references the same idea that David Campany’s recent exhibition A Handful of Dust does, i.e. that everything is ultimately made of he same stardust. It is how we choose to see it that matters.

In any part of the universe there is a whole universe – Hamlet saw infinite space in a nutshell; William Blake saw a world in a grain of sand, a heaven in a wild flower, and eternity in an hour.
— Albarrán Cabrera

Most of the newer series are silver and platinum prints, some of which are toned with tea, but there are a few that are made with a different process, one they describe as Pigment print over gold leaf on Japanese paper.  An example can be seen here, but there are also a regular supply of new ones on their Instagram feed at These are gorgeous, and I wanted to have a go at trying to replicate the technique on a domestic basis. I don’t know how they produce their pieces on a large scale, but I can certainly do so on a very small scale, as I happen to have both gold leaf and Japanese washi paper in my supplies cupboard.

First up was an attempt to add a gold leaf join to a torn print (using an old regular print that I don’t need any more). I found this extremely tricky and messy to do, and feel there must be an easier method than dabbing gold leaf onto glue, but the results have promise.


Then I tried the idea of making a black and white print on very thin washi paper  (Awagami – Murakomo Kozo Select) and then applying gold leaf to the back.  First result was messy – too much glue, although I really like the almost painterly feeling that it shows in close-up.

A second attempt was more successful, although I will have to make sure that I keep bits of pesky leaf off the front of the photo. I like the fact that one can just see the gold leaf peeping out from the edges on this one.


And finally, I tried it with a colour image. Albarran Cabrera mostly use yellows and reds as their colour palette, but my first attempt used greens, and was possibly too dark. (I have attached the original standard print alongside for comparison.

So, where do we go from here? I intend to use this technique for my next exercise , which is about illustrating five separate words. Just need to choose the words now! And I am also going to try it out with aluminium foil as the backing.

Notes on assignment 4 from the Thames Valley Group

This last week has been very busy and I am only now able to site down and consider the feedback I received on my proposal for assignment 4. I explained the background to the images, my idea of matching them with snippets of old music hall songs. The general consensus was that the story was “tragic” and I might be minimising the shocking effect that having to move out at very short notice to places they were totally unfamiliar with must have had on the care home residents. We agreed that the overall effect should steer well clear of any suggestion of tweeness.

It was suggested that the Artist’s Statement might be all that is needed to accompany the images, and that it should be sufficiently informative to enable the viewer to consider what life at the home might have been before its sudden closure. I think it is time to return to my search for any formal documentation about the care home closure and why it failed its quality assessment so badly that everyone had to be moved out immediately.

Aside from my own work, the was the busiest group meeting I have attended with 15 participants, so the whole day was given over to looking at student’s work. A proper write-up of the day can be seen on the OCASA site at


Some thought and a project on Section 4, part 1

The early exercise in Part 4 concern the idea of taking images made by other people and giving them a variety of alternative texts to play with the meaning of the photograph. Rather than using someone else’s work, I have decided instead to use some images I found in a photography book that I purchased online.  Part 2 of the Section asks us to make photographs in response to words, while this one is the converse – using a variety of words to complement images.


Some time ago, I purchased a secondhand copy of the  book The Camera I: Photographic Self-Portraits from the Audrey and Sydney Irmas Collection, by RA Sobieszek and Deborah Irmas. Inside several of the first few pages were eight of what I am told are Polaroid negatives. They had carefully been placed one inside each page spread, in what appears to have been a deliberate way. An example is shown below.


Obviously, I know absolutely nothing about this girl and why the negatives have been placed so carefully within the pages of a book about self-portraiture, but the negatives fascinate me, and they beg for a story to be constructed around them.

So, these are the images, inverted from the negatives and tidied up a bit. I am not sure which way around they should be, so have made a judgement based on the way they were presented in the book. She is beautiful, isn’t she?

Some of them are not quite in focus, and I am not so keen on no 8. However, all together they are intriguing . Part 2 of this project will look at how I have decided to interpret them


A possible collaboration opportunity

A couple of days ago, I visited an Open Studio showcasing the work of Hannah Dosanjh. Hannah is a Naïve painter who originally qualified as an Illustrator and I really enjoyed the visit for two reasons. Firstly, her work is very good, but what particularly attracts me to it are the little descriptions she attached to each one, which indicate her thoughts about why she made the picture and whimsical details about her life. See below for an example. They seem very much in alignment with the work I am currently doing on linking images and text. Secondly, Hannah lives and works in my village and her images are about everyday life here – the cake competition, the pub, etc. and I see that they complement some of my own work on village life. A few are shown below, as Hannah kindly asked me to photograph them for her to put on Facebook.

As it happened, when I turned up, another person I know was there, Talis Kimberley-Fairbourn. Talis is a musician and composer (our village is full of talent) and all three of us are Parish Councillors! It struck me that we could do some work together, and I have just the right opportunity for a group show coming up. Our local library will be shutting for six months from December and will re-open in July (long story about the Borough Council refusing to pay for our library service any more, and it being taken over by a library trust, of which I am a member), with an opening ceremony and party. The perfect event for a group exhibition and concert featuring local people who produce work on the local environment. I am looking forward to making this happen. If it comes off, it will also be an opportunity for me to learn how to put on an exhibition, and about curation, as we will almost certainly have more people anting to show work than space available, so some boundaries will need to be put round what is accepted.