Category Archives: Personal reflections

More on photo-manipulation

My creative frenzy has continued over the weekend, and extended out from the original mandala concept. Progress is slow because I am learning thing I did not know about Photoshop through videos, which is time consuming, although  very worthwhile. Here is my rendition of Sunrise at Angkor Wat, an image I took last year, with the Before and After for reference. (Please zoom in; there is a lot of detail). Unfortunately, a lesson I have learned is to make completely sure that the images overlap, as I have two very annoying lines one pixel wide intruding into the image, which I am struggling to get rid of. I have printed out and framed a couple of the mandalas so far, and they don’t look bad at all.

I then started to look at moving away from a circular image towards something that still holds references to the original image. The result below is called Wolfgang Tillmans Revisited. Before and After are shown again. I rather like this, and think there is some potential here too.

Finally, I have been looking again at something  I was hoping to do in assignment 3 of C&N, which is combining different images in an organised way, and have finally figured out how to make a shape within an image (and written down the instructions, so I can do it again).

_1410522-1v1w triangle

My plan now is to explore this in more complex ways, as outlined in this YouTube video on polyscapes. This should allow me to manipulate my images in the way I am looking for. It isn’t a quick process, but is great fun. I am also mulling over the idea of turning some of these images into patchwork quilt works, using fabrics similar to the colourways I am producing.



Some more mandalas

Today, I’ve been making some abstracts of Iceland, and extending the Photoshop repetition idea a little further. Here are a couple of original images, and some of my variations. The first is River at Jökulsárlón, with the original first (obviously).

I then tried something a little different, using a YouTube video on making Kalaidoscopes in Photoshop. This included how to make a repeatable action set for the process, so that I don’t have to start from scratch every time.

It is interesting that in the straightforward mandala has picked out a small feature from the original (a rope hanging in the drying hut) and emphasised that, while the kaleidoscope version is much truer to the original colours and proportion.

With this in mind, I produced a kaleidoscope of the first image and this was the result.P1180281-1v2

Not nearly as successful as the other one. Clearly the layout of the original is critical to how it turns out, depending on the treatment. Some work much better than others.

What is Place?

I’ve been thinking about this lately, with regard to my own work and the different locations I visit round the world. There’s a section in the Landscape course, which asks “what makes a space a place?” and my very basic understanding is that human intervention and the creation of memories there turns a space into a place. However, that is not what has struck me on my globetrotting adventures. My own experience is that it is the colour palette of the landscapes that clearly identify them. For example, when I think about Icelandic landscapes, the pictures in my mind are black, yellow, red and white, while that of central Australia is ochre, black, soft lime green and yellow.

Taking this a little further, it is interesting to flick through my Lightroom library at high speed, over the course of the year. As the seasons change, so does the colour palette in a very clear but subtle way. Of course, we all know that the seasons are associated with different colours – black and white for winter; greens and yellows for spring; bright yellows, reds and blues for summer; and soft golds, bronzes and browns for autumn.

Alongside this, a couple of pieces of work have caught my attention online, which specifically look at the way that colour grading is used in films and TV programmes. Jason Shulman has condensed entire films into a single image, which condenses the colour grading used and which gives hints about it and also how the director filled the screen in their work.  There has been much speculation on the OCA Facebook sites about how he achieved this, and the consensus was that he merged a series of very long exposures. In a similar vein, Visually Satisfying Project Shares the Color Palettes of Iconic Film Scenes, a Twitter project, picks out the specific colours that exemplify movies and puts them together in the same way that Design Seeds uses. This has the effect of bringing together a range of colours that work together and which are reminiscent of the films concerned.

I am keen to explore the idea of working with different colour palettes as representations of a place and have decided to explore them in a couple of different ways. Firstly, I have taken the scenery out of the images for the most part and making mandalas in Photoshop which merge the colours into complex patterns. Below are my first two trials, and I am quite excited about where this might go. They are both from Australia, the first from Uluru and the second from Darwin. Alongside it is an abstract of water reflections from Katherine Gorge in the style of Peter Kenny, a photographer whose abstract work I greatly admire. This has possibilities too. Do zoom in on the mandalas – there is a lot of detail in them

The potential in Photoshop to take this further are huge, and it merges my interests in patchwork and photography in a mutually effective way. There is much to be learned here about the use of vectors in making template shapes and extending the complexity of the work to incorporate symbols and patterns appropriate to the place about which they were made.

Note on work for the TVG exhibition – 2

After a few days away from this, I took another look at what I have put together so far for this, and the bits that intrigue me are the intermediate areas between the old photos and the new, where one is fading out and the other gradually becoming clear. There is something in this space that I want to explore further, to do with change, the reality of history and memories. More to come on this in future posts.

Secondly, I have been looking at the idea of how we store our memories, and in particular our photographs (which recall the memories). I have seen other students putting work relating to memories in boxes, but I would like to think about them as packaged ideas, that one can take out to look at. To this end, I have been experimenting with enclosing an image or images within a clear box, that one can pick up and consider from a variety of angles and directions. The clear barrier between the viewer and the memory appeals to me in the same way as the glass on a picture or photograph frame does, but the three-dimensional aspect adds something – the ability to look at a memory from different points of view and perspectives, which echoes how some events and what happened at them keep reappearing in our minds.

There is also something to consider here about how certain memories, which we take out to look at over and over again, may be holding us back from making necessary changes to our lives. An example might be a relationship break-up, where certain behaviours by the ex-partner are regularly re-examined. We can only move on if we decide to forget these issues. I have put together a little sequence below to illustrate this idea. I am still working on how to suspend the photographs within the cube invisibly, so for now I am using red thread, and on reflection, the Red Thread analogy works quite well, so I might keep it. (The images inside the box were something I had lying around, so are not significant. For a proper version, I will need to think about representations of specific memories.

I am also wondering whether a series of stcked boxes with different images and different stages of forgetting might work. I haven’t got enough boxes at present though, only three. Also, should the red thread extend outside the box on one side to simulate the connection with the photographer?

Work for the Thames Valley Group project

I’m currently working on the scattergun principle – too many projects heading off in different directions. So, to make some space in my head, I am putting this here, and would welcome any comments. As background, the Thames Valley Group is putting together an exhibition to encourage students to start thinking about making a Body of Work. The theme of the exhibition will be Time. I have lots of ideas for this, but what is interesting me at present is the idea of representing the concept of Now.

I am lucky enough to have access to a range of old photographs of my house and the area around it, as some of the previous occupants were newsworthy in their time. Whether or not I will refer directly to their story remains to be seen, but I have started out by merging two images of the same spot  from the 1920s and the present in various ways to see how they look. See below.

For the purposes of this work, number 3 seems to work best, although I like the contextualisation of number 2 as well.

I also used Photoshop to merge a couple of images of the house’s interior in Photoshop. These are simply test shots, so please ignore the plastic bag and knitting in the second one. The older images in this case were from some estate agent’s details for the house in the early 1960s.

Purely by chance I then happened to come across a series in Lensculture by the Albarrán Cabrera team, whom I follow on Instagram @albarrancabrera . The Series, Kairos looks at how we might visualise the concept of “Now” in a not dissimilar way to the work I did back in C&N assignment 5, but uses gold leaf to separate two images of the same subject, taken at different times. They say that “the images are a metaphor for the fact that the past and the future are not real, just a human invention“. A concept that is right up my street!

As a result I am now revisiting the idea of sewing that I looked at in C&N. I have tried adding a gold thread to one of the images above, but it is not clear enough, so I need to explore other ways of showing “the gap which Now occupies”.


Some thoughts on advertising, unconnected to my current work, NSFW

I’m currently beavering away at putting together a plan for assignment 3, but alongside this I have also been doing some technical learning to improve my skills and picking up some other ideas which have no bearing on my current place in the course. There’s one thought that I need to get down on the blog for future work.

Please do not click on the link below if you are offended by images of full frontal male nudes.

I found this fascinating, as it appears to be a serious, genuine fashion show by one of the handbag designers, Louwe at the Madrid Fashion Show a few years ago. Understandably, it is a very popular link on gay sites. Nude women have been a feature of fashion advertising (and just about all other advertising too)for many years, so much so that we hardly blink when we see them, but it is extremely unusual to see men in this way. I’ve tried to find some background as to what the message of the show was meant to be without success, so I am going to make a few guesses here.

  • they used nude male models to be sensationalist and to shock, and thus to get more news coverage
  • they thought it would be different and jokey

However, if the idea was to show off the handbags, the idea went spectacularly wrong. I defy any heterosexual female to be able to be able to report anything much about the bags on first viewing. All that naked male flesh strutting down the runway is impossible to ignore because it is so outside our normal experience. The concept manages to put men into exactly the same position of being subject to The Gaze as women have routinely been for most of history and it is a very unsettling feeling for both sexes. I imagine that the models and men in general feel very exposed by it, while as a woman it makes me wonder if this is how women in general are perceived by men (in general), especially when women are wearing body-hugging or limited attire. Fashion runways are routinely filled with nearly or wholly naked women, and it is hardly remarked upon. In the arts, the situation is similar. Although there is room for the occasional male nude, numbers are miniscule compared to naked females.

I haven’t yet done the section on The Gaze, and I would be interested to know what other students a bit further along in the course would say about it.



Reflections about hive projects


Last night, I took part in an online activity as part of a project I am involved in. Grey Matters has been set up by Mathew Aldred at Oxford Riverside Gallery in Nova Scotia and is a communal project based on word of mouth. I came across it after several recently graduated OCA students put on an exhibition of their work there, called 6 Go To Oxford, which was reviewed by OCA here, and asked if I could join.

The concept is given below, from the Grey Matters website.

Grey Matters is an online collective intelligence art project with participants from around the world connecting via a variety of social media platforms to produce a series of works exploring the concept of grey – literally and metaphorical.

This art work is partly a response to the extremism developing in public discourse, and the sound-bite, click-bait, post-truth culture that feeds it. Also, taking inspiration from the honey bees, the project explores the nature of collective intelligence and how creative problem solving communities can be created online – cyber micro-eutopias (realisable ‘good places’, not impossible ‘utopias’); or, more skeptically, at least altering our perceptions of our own identity, the notion of ‘Self’, our consciousness, and relationships with others in the Information Age. From:

From a participant’s point of view, my own experience of it is that it began with people being invited to Tweet an image with a name, and a red circle surrounding a small area of grey within it. Some of the images submitted have been monochrome, but the majority are colour, and a great variety of chromatic greys are included. These are pasted on a specified square in a large grid.

Then we were invited to paste our greys next to related subjects or make an image which responded to another image within the grid. After that, we have been asked to suggest various words that come to mind when we think of the colour grey. A taxonomy of all the colours  is being constructed and also of the words. Up to this current point, the latest task has been to get involved in the production online of a series of grids like the one shown in the link below. This was what I participated in last night.

An unknown number of us met online at a specific time and for the next hour, we all removed some cells from the grid and coloured others grey. Each time this is done, the results will be totally different, as what turns out is both apparently random and organised at the same time. Each participant unilaterally decides which squares to remove or colour in, but those decisions are informed by what others have already done (or not done) and one’s own response to that. For example, I found myself “tidying up” the grid towards the end – correcting wrongly coloured squares (they were all supposed to be a very specific shade of grey) and filling in the edges of the grid.

As one goes about participating, it becomes very clear that “the hive mind” is another layer of human interaction which we do not think about much in everyday life, but which has significant effects on our world. Each person may think of his or her self as an individual, but at the same time what they do adds a tiny incremental part to our overall experience as a group. Everything we have achieved as humans is based on this. Taking a general example, science does not spring full-formed into our understanding. It depends on many participants adding small advances in knowledge to the overall understanding. Taking another manifestation of the idea, in the arts, one can argue that changes in fashion relate to “more bees” concentrating on building a particular part of the hive. That doesn’t mean that all the other parts have been lost – they may start to degrade, but eventually some bees will probably come along to repair and extend  What the internet has done is to amalgamate small, discrete hives into much larger connected ones,  and this massive increase in our potential for networked interactions has both positive and negative effects. On the positive side, our opportunities for advancing knowledge have increased hugely, while on the negative side, as we are seeing in global politics at the moment, it provides the network for undesirable opinions and activities to take off too. We cannot put this genie back in its bottle though. The negative side of the hive mind is here to stay, but we can still use the hive analogy to combat it, by overwhelming undesirable forces with the much greater number of good elements. I want to leave this here, and not get too far into the concepts of freedom of speech and shutting down arguments one disagrees with, but will just say that “the worker bees” can be directed in large numbers by anyone with enough power, whether that be for good or evil.

Taking this down to the personal level, another three observations I have made are:

  1. Each of us tends to assume a certain role in the collective group. Think Myers-Briggs etc. for these different roles. That role could be innate, or it could be a reaction to what one perceives is happening overall. Thinking of myself, I have a very different role in the OCA student cadre than I have had when participating in previous groups. I am much more of an organiser and networker now, rather than a worker bee participant. This is worth thinking about for a future project.
  2. There are many, many different shades of grey. In a world that apparently is becoming much more black and white (I mean this as extremes of opinion rather than as a specific comment on racism), we need to remember that black and white are two ends of a very long spectrum, and that the overwhelming majority of opinions fall somewhere in between (in the grey area).
  3. If one starts a small project and then opens it up to anyone who wants to join in, over time it can become very large, and it may head off in directions one had not previously considered.

I am thoroughly enjoying being a part of this project, and particularly like its incremental nature. New participants are added by word of mouth, and so a virtual network gradually forms over time, and also the activities are added to over time, so there is always something new for regular participants to do. There may be further updates on the project as it goes along, and if anyone who reads this blog would like to join in, please get in touch with Mathew at It helps if you have a Twitter account which you can access via phone or tablet.