Still Life – Objects Re shoot

Figure 1: Phil Hill (May, 2021) Family archive objects re-shoot

I have been waiting for a break in the weather to continue photographing family and also places associated with my project. This has given me the time to reconsider some of the objects that I have been photographing as still life (Fig: 1).

Figure 2: Phil Hill (February, 2021) St Christopher pendant on flatbed scanner
Figure 3: Phil Hill (March, 2021) St Christopher pendant on neutral background.

Initially, I made flatbed scans of many of the cuttings and images (Fig: 2), which worked as a starting point to consider what I had within the archive. It was always my plan to treat all of the objects including the photographic prints – the same in terms of how they should be photographed as a still life set up. For this change, I settled on a fairly neutral tone in order for the objects to be viewed in their own right (Fig: 3). Colour theory and the impact that this might have on the image is something that I initially gave little thought too apart from the decision to not use a straight white, which I felt would create far too much contrast, or black, which could lead to the objects becoming lost within the image. After some consideration, I felt that I wanted to bring more of myself into the work even if I am not directly in front of the camera. To do this here, I am referencing some of my own baby objects and christening items and decided to use a light blue background, or a baby blue (fig: 4) as if to signal that this is part of my childhood, albeit subtly. Aesthetically, the blue creates a nice contrast to the faded and high red tones in many of the archive images that I am working with (Fig: 5).

Figure 4: Pantone (2021) Pantone swatch for ‘Baby Blue’
Figure 5: Phil Hill & Unknown (May, 2021) Family albumpage on Blue back ground [un-edited]

The re shoot was also an opportunity to create a consistent series of images that up until now have been photographed using different methods and techniques, which might become challenging when it comes to the sequence. There is still some work to be done to clean up the consistency between these images in terms of the placement of shadow creating gradients that mean placing some images together might become problematic as a result of not having access to a good infinity curve. I may have to go back and make further re shoots when a sequence is settled.

Colin suggested during the recent group crit that I could aim to be reliable in order to be unreliable. As the author of the work it is important for me to be able to effectively apply the concept of the unreliable narrator in a reliable way – the best authors of literary work, for example, can create a narrative with an unreliable character because the readers trust the author to do so. In my own case, I potentially need to ensure that what you are looking at is technically and aesthetically sound so that the reader might trust that the sequencing is purporting to unreliable narration. As Wayne C. Booth reminds us:

“My subject is the technique of non-didactic fiction, viewed as the art of communicating with readers – the rhetorical resources available to the writer of epic, novel, or short story as he tries, consciously or unconsciously, to impose his fictional world upon the reader”

(1975, p. 1)

I also made some additional discoveries whilst going back through the archive and also some new connections with objects previously I didn’t photograph. For example, My parents used to keep scrap books of cards and other bits considered important – there is one for their wedding, and another two for both me and my brother. One of these books is called ‘Cuttings Book’ (Fig: 6), which resonated with the way that I have started to work with the Manual intervention images – perhaps the parts of the image cut away ended up in this book. Some other interesting discoveries, were in a couple newspaper clippings found in one of the albums, which become more intriguing o the reverse – suggesting a crime of some sort (Fig: 7). I am unsure of how to utilise these in the wider narrative but am becoming more interested in creating a few false turns and dead ends within the sequence to increase the sense of mystery.

Figure 7: Phil Hill (May, 2021) ‘Cuttings Book’ from family archive.
Figure 8: Phil Hill (May, 2021) Reverse of a newspaper cutting in family archive.

Despite much of my attention still wanting to create portraiture and also images of significant place, the objects represent an important development in my approach to the work. I am effectively taking from one archive and creating one of my own, a form of changing narratives through appropriation and selection in order to present what I want to be shown – for my purposes. As Sophie Berrebi notes: “There are no such thing as ‘found objects’, but only objects that are ‘set aside’, selected and re-contextualised” (2014, p. 41). The family album is a form of official state narrative, it is constructed to project the idealised version for others to see (Manual intervention images not withstanding), Berrebi acknowledges this within the way that we also view the ‘document’ or archives of other state narrative,  referring to a response to Foucoult by Jacque Le Goff and Pierre Toubert: ‘there is no truthful document’, yet it is also the job of future historians to analyse these archives and as they go on to  point out: “to deconstruct, to demolish this montage, to destructure this construction, and analyse the conditions of production of these documents-monuments” (p. 42).

In the images I construct that create new imagery of my own past archive, I am analysing its contents but I am also creating another ‘document-monument,’ which ultimately would need to be de-constructed in the future.


Berrebi, S., 2014. The Shape of Evidence: Contemporary Art and the Document. Amsterdam: Valiz.

Booth, W. C., 1975. The Rhetoric of Fiction. 11 ed. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.

On Photobooks

I spent a good amount of time during the MA debating the value of the photobook in terms of a key way to disseminate my work. Photobooks can feel like a limited way of putting work into the world, which is supported by arguments put forward by Simon Norfolk who has suggested that they can be esoteric and only really consumed by other photographers (2019). However, I have since started to consider the photobook as one of a range of ways to disseminate my work, which in part has been inspired by that way that my own small book was distributed and shared, leading to additional ways in which work can be seen (Fig: 1). This in part has been formed from starting to look at the ways that I can use the format over an in-person exhibitions, owing to the pandemic. Martin Parr, one of the biggest proponents of the photobook also notes their significant place for the dissemination of photographic work: “The photobook has been a fundamental means of expression and dissemination for photographers since the earliest practitioners pasted their images onto pages resembling those they would once have filled with sketches” (Parr & Badger, 2004: 7).

Figure 1: Phil Hill & Out of Place Books (January, 2021) I hope this finds you safe and well photo book.

The book creates an opportunity for my work to be experienced in a tangible way, even when it has been impossible to do so over the recent months. The physicality of the book also places an enhanced experience of the work for the reader through the materials and the way that the work is presented. Bruno Ceschel expertly provides the basis in which I can now approach my own photobook construction for the project: “The first thing you must do is demystify the idea of the photobook. As soon as you have demolished every single convention about what a photobook should be, you fee yourself to dream up something new, exciting, and most important – completely doable” (2015: 485). It is important to put down my initial reservations about what I thought photobooks represented and consider the ways that I can add value to my project with a physical art object, which can be distributed and shared easily, meaning the experience of the work is not lost through the computer screen. Crucially, Ceschel makes a further point: “The book is a journey, not a destination […] Making a book should be both challenging and fun. It should be an adventure that will make you aware of your own practice, ideas, knowledge and skills” (p. 486). This above all, has been the biggest revelation in the process of the MA and indeed this FMP.

Figure 2: Alma Haser (2015) From ‘Cosmic Surgery’
Figure 3: Alma Haser (2015) from ‘Cosmic Surgery’

Therefore, I am looking at constructing a self-published book in the first instance. One that includes elements of trace and memory and how unreliable these things are. My book should be able to be reproduced easily in potentially different versions. I am considering creating a short run edition of between 5 – 10 highly unique books with an individual hand-made aesthetic and will be a higher end product, much Almar Hasser’s first edition of ‘Cosmic Surgery’ that that contains many more intricate elements than the subsequent editions (Fig: 2&3). I will also do a further edition, which is more easily producible on a larger scale – potentially on demand. Both of these editions, will be able to be produced through the resources that I have available to me. As I work in a Further Education college, I have access to good quality book making materials and printers – albeit with some limitations that I am exploring. There are also a range of art studios, which I can potentially use for elements such as screen printing and letter press etc.

Self Publishing

David Senior notes: “To self publish, to decentralise the production of print media, created a new type of printed object – one in which artists and designers bent the rules, played with conventions of the format, and created new containers for communication” (Ceshel & Senior, 2015: 8-9), which continues to support the idea of experimentation within my project. I have not finished photographing for the project either, so both provide opportunity to continue investigating ways in which to best communicate my ideas.

Figure 5: Lewis Bush (2021) From Bush’s Instagram showing the process of zine making.

My plan is to build a good quality dummy, which can be shared with publishers and also through book dummy awards. The idea that I can also produce other versions of the book quickly and efficiently to a high standard also means that I can share the book with people within the industry that might be interested in the project. I can do this on my own terms and also continue to develop the book as I gain reaction to it, as Ceshel also discusses: “Another thing you can do to free yourself from performance anxiety is to think of your book as being in flux – each time you print, the publication can change” (2015: 486). Lewis Bush also noted this when promoting some later runs of his zine publications (Fig: 5), which embrace the hand made nature of the format and the way that later mistakes can be rectified and does not detract from the professionalism that he brings to his wide range of zine publications.

My project has become one that builds an unusual world for the reader to be taken on a journey through. John Gossage places this kind of world building as a key element for a good photography book project: “firstly, it should contain great work. Secondly, it should function a concise world within the book itself. Thirdly, it should have a design that complements what s being dealt with. And finally, it should deal with the content that sustains an ongoing interest” (Parr & Badger, 2004: 7). This idea of world building is still ongoing and I will need to consider the ways that the materials and the design of the book add value to this. 


Ceshel, B. & Senior, D., 2015. Self Publish Be Happy: A DIY Photobook Manual and Manifesto. 1 ed. New York: Aperture.

Norfolk, S., 2019. A Small Voice: Conversations with Photographers [Interview] (12 June 2019).

Parr, M. & Badger, G., 2004. The Photobook: A History Vol 1. 1 ed. London: Phaidon.

On Diana Markosian

Figure 1: Diana Markosian (2014) Armenia. 2014. This is the closet thing I had to an image of my father. A cut out of him in my mother’s photo album. An empty hole. A reminder of what wasn’t there.

In her work titled ‘Inventing my Father’ Markosian deals with the absence of her father, who exists as only memories and cut out of photographs in her family album (Fig: 1). The work wonderfully puts together archive images and her own photography. I quite like the way that she combines the colour archive with her own black and white imagery (Fig: 2) as if to invert the idea of black and white being of the past – the fade and colour shifts in the archive does that in a really natural way and her images create a visual break to show her own investigations.   

Figure 2: Diana Markosian (2014) Armenia. 2014. I am standing in the courtyard of my father’s home. It’s the same gray, decaying Soviet building I remember as a child. You could say I’ve come home. But that’s not how it feels.

Figure 3: Phil Hill (April, 2021) Archive database of image captions for FMP project

I have been working to create captions and text to accompany my images. Initially, I was looking at the idea of describing the image in a literal way and created a database of all of the images that I have photographed and archived myself (Fig: 3). The idea is that my eventual sequence would be as subjective and edited as any of the narratives that I have, or that the reader might have of the work. This could work as a booklet with every caption, numbered, for the reader to work through and find the ones associated with the book. This very much was inspired by Barthes’ famed winter garden image of his mother (1993), which is never seen and may have never existed at all (Photoworks, 2013). This literal description however, may not be working and I actually quite like the way that Markosian has captioned her imagery with a personal reflection about her father (Fig: 4). This could be a way of creating the narrative within my work and potentially I could create a kind of ‘Flash Fiction’ story broken up into the image sequence.

Figure 4: Diana Markosian (2014) Armenia. 2014. When I would ask my mother about him, she would look at me disappointed, “Forget him. He’s gone,” she would say.
Figure 5: Karl Ohiri (2013) from ‘How To Mend A Broken Heart’

Figure 6: Quetzal Maucci (2020) from ‘
Baci, Piccoli Baci, Grandi Baci’

One of the most striking images in Markosian’s series is the cut photographic print (Fig: 1), another example of the ‘Manual Intervention Photographs’ that photographers, such as Karl Ohiri (Fig: 5), and Quetzal Maucci (Fig: 6) have used to great effect in their own series. Markosian notes of the photograph: “For my mom, the solution to forget him was simple. She cut his image out of every photograph in our family album. But those holes made it harder for me to forget him” (2015). This validates an earlier discussion that I had regarding these kinds if images, which create more questions than anything that are conceivably aiming to hide (Fig: xx). I wonder why you would keep the image at all. It would also be worth noting that Markosian’s mother took her and her brother to the US when Markosian was seven, without telling her father where they were going. Presumably, Markosian’s mother took the family albums with her – including all of the images if the father. The object remains precious, even under times that are understandably stressful.

Figure 7: Phil Hill (February, 2021) Discussion the unreliable narrator and manual intervention photographs

Return of the object

There are a number of objects within the archive that I need to consider in terms of the way that they are part of the project.

I have considered the concept of Object Orientated Ontology (OOO) previously, the idea that objects exist in a far more complex way than humans are able to interpret them, as Graham Harmon states: “all of the objects that we experience are merely fictions: simplified models of the far more complex objects that continue to exist when I turn my head away from them, not to mention when I sleep or die” (2018, p. 34). In my own reflections, I considered the way that we view the world in a anthropocentric sense yet objects can exist outside of this, including ideas that ‘agency’ may also evoke the way in which the qualities and characteristics of even inanimate objects may have an impact on the reading of them.

It is a recurring theme in the work that I am reviewing as part of my research. In an anthropological sense, objects in the absence of the person are what can be used to try and understand them. A material culture (Engelke, 2017, pp. 6-7) show all of the items that we collect and hoard to build a picture of the person. Of course, this also has it’s subjective limits and is unreliable.


Barthes, R., 1993. Camera Lucida. London: Vintage.

Engelke, M., 2017. Think Like an Anthropologist. London: Pelican Books.

Markosian, D., 2015. Diana Markosian: Inventing my Father. FT Weekend Magazine, 3/4 January, pp. 12-15.

Photoworks, 2013. The Great Unknown. [Online] Available at: [Accessed 07 February 2021].

Book Dummy Construction V2

Continuing the development of my book dummy, I have started to look at ways that I can make a book, which can be mass produced easily. I feel that the outcome should exist somewhere between the accessible and unique limited-edition art object. I intend to create a short-limited edition that includes unique and hand made elements to the book. For example, the use of the carbon copy paper, hand typed, and potentially screen-printed pages. These books could also have an individual unique aspect to the sequence or another part, which supports the unreliable aspects of the project.

Ideas for this could include:

  • Unique sequence for each book
  • Supporting ‘end notes’ that changes the caption information
  • ‘End Notes’ booklet that has captions for more images than are in the publication or the inclusion of additional contact pages to acknowledge the subjectivity of the photographic edit.
  • Limited edition prints included
  • Hand printed elements within the book.
  • If I decide to use elements such as the correspondence paper, this could actually be included
  • Hand torn edges – creating a unique object

Unreliable V2:

Figure 1: Phil Hill (April, 2021) Unreliable narrator book dummy version 2

I was able to access a printer that can create booklets, which makes it quite easy to run off sequences and see how these work in a book form (Fig: 1). The stapled edge also would work similar to the Japanese binding that I looked at previously in terms if the gutter and center margin. Although, I would aim for a higher quality for any final book, this was a useful way of seeing how I could quickly and economically produce a larger run of the book should it be self-published.

I am not sure about the A4 size, as the aspect ratio of the 6X7 format might look better in a 10×8 format. Some of the images within the book, really need the space to breath and I would have to consider the way that some of the image plays a role in the way the book reads.

Courier Type

Figure 2: Howard Kettler (1956) Courier Typeface

As I have been using a physical typewriter, I decided to use a typeface that would still be recognised as such. Courier is a ‘slab serif’ style (Fig: 2), which was created originally as a typewriter font. It’s use in later versions of my book would mean that the style and feel of the type would not be too compromised switching between a hand typed to digital text, albeit with a lost physicality.


From conversations that I have started to have with family and others around the project, I have been collecting together quotes that I can use within the sequence so I have attempted to work some of them into this version


Figure 3: Phil Hill (April, 2021) Endnotes accompanying booklet

As an attempt to bring in a bit more of a contextualisation to the work, I have produced an accompanying booklet called ‘endnotes’ (Fig: 3), which creates an opportunity to play with the concept of unreliability by potentially producing different versions to go with the main publication. At the start, I have added a contextualising statement and then followed it by providing caption information via a corresponding number within the main book. Alternatively, I could use the Twin check label idea, which I have linked to ideas of memory, or could create a mini version of the main book that would have images.


Figure 4: Script Studio (2021) Script format for printing out

Following the narrative structures that I am using, I might also work to create the next iteration of the book in the format of how a script is produced (Fig: 4). The format and presentation lends itself to the goals I am aiming for with my book. The size and script format create connotations supporting the unreliable narrator narrative structure. This kind of referencing is also similar to the way that Jack Latham’s ‘Sugar Paper Theories’ (Fig: 5) is presented as a kind of court evidence document. The format lends itself to a modular approach in the way that it is bound together using brass split pins, which could work as a way of mixing up the sequences. It would also be a relatively economic way of producing multiple copies in preparation for sharing with people interested in disseminating the work. This also means that I can easily create a copy for book awards.

Figure 5: Jack Latham (2015) Cover of Sugar Paper Theories

On Zoe Leonard

Figure 1: Zoe Leonard (1989) Three untitled photographs, taken from airplane windows

Leonard’s work deals with the idea of how we understand the photographic nature of photography. This is important as it really identifies the impact that photography can have on our understanding of the world. Leonard uses this really effectively and in simple terms for the reader, for example in the way that she leaves the border of the negative (Fig: 1), as Fi Churchman points out “as if to remind the viewer – and maybe herself – that these are compositions: the world framed by another’s viewpoint. Put simply, all perspectives are constructs” (Churchman & Leonard, 2018). This really resonates with the way that my own work has developed as I have become interested in the way that the photograph constructs – even place its own inanimate agency from its characteristics. It feeds my idea of how photographer, photography, and photographed elements can be unreliable in the construction, Leonard’s idea of ‘perspectives,’ or as she notes “where you look is only half the picture” (2018).

Now that I have started to consider my project as a way of responding to belief, and to acknowledge that these all may be tenuous – even my own. I am drawn to Leonard’s intentions for her work. My project has developed to also look at the way that elements of class, misinformation, conspiracy, and personal histories are all susceptible to unreliable narration. Leonard echoes this in the way that she says: “I’m consciously making space for the viewer and unfolding a kind of visual and spatial essay for them, in the hope that the viewer responds with their opinions, experiences, emotions. It’s not about trying to convince you of mine [Leonard’s], but to elicit yours” (2018). This is a useful way of thinking about the presentation of the work. I have considered putting together a sequence of the work, which could differ from publication to publication in order to undermine the experience that an individual brings to it, or would it just make it a more personal individualised interpretation of the work? Both would be the case. Wendy suggested that this kind of presentation could work to support the way that we all have a subjectivity when reviewing the family album and I would be aiming to build in this by highlighting the way that photography is a construction.


Churchman, F. & Leonard, Z., 2018. Zoe Leonard in ArtReview. [Online] Available at: [Accessed 21 April 2021].

Socially Engaged – Mariama Attah

Figure 1: Phil Hill (April, 2021) Garden Incinerator in my Brothers garden
Figure 2: Phil Hill (April, 2021) Garden incinerator in my parents garden

I have reached a point in my project where I really need to consider the way that my photographs are representing the people in the images. There are some areas that have come up, that I have been drawn to in fact. For example, there are aspects to the beliefs that my mother holds, which really feed into the unreliable narrator idea and the way that mis-information proliferates. For example, upon my last visit home, I have noticed more objects around my parents home, such as the garden incinerator’s that both my parents and my brother have (Fig 1 & 2). They use these to burn anything that has an identifying address on instead of garden waste, which is born from some of the conspiracy theories that my mother is particularly interested in. I have not really considered this as part of the unreliable narrator project before however, my family are very much following a great deal of the mis-information and false narratives that exist on the internet, especially around the pandemic and attempts to vaccinate. There are new subtle hints towards this attitude to Covid, which can be seen in the portrait of my brother’s wife and her ‘mask exempt’ badge (Fig: 3).

Figure 3: Phil Hill (April, 2021) Sharon [not yet edited]

I have avoided this part of my family’s character up to now, but feel that it has become quite an important part to potentially include, owing to the nature of the subjects that I am exploring. My initial feelings are that I can potentially leave these aspects in a future sequence with little to no explanation as it drives the unreliable narrator theme through the work, leaving readers to discover these elements in the work. This is my family however, and it is not my intention to draw negative reaction to any of the people included in the work. This is important to me. How do I include them whilst remaining empathetic and respectful for the individual? I don’t believe that anyone who believes that Covid is a conspiracy is coming from a bad place and I also feel that it is actually important to analyse the reasons why they believe it in an open discussion that does not resort to partisan stone throwing. Neuroscientist, Hannah Critchlow notes that our beliefs are constructed to help us understand the world around us, we create the rules in which we see the world operate (2021). Critchlow’s suggestion is that as a way of trying to understand something that is too large to comprehend, such as the make up of the universe or the way that a global pandemic has spread, it is completely natural to gravitate toward religion and other beliefs.  A recent study on the way that ideas and information spreads through the internet found that lies spread much faster than truth, noting “false stories inspired fear, disgust, and surprise in replies, true stories inspired anticipation, sadness, joy, and trust. Contrary to conventional wisdom, robots accelerated the spread of true and false news at the same rate, implying that false news spreads more than the truth because humans, not robots, are more likely to spread it” (Vosoughi, et al., 2018). The challenge is in the way that others might look at and potentially mock those who believe in such theories.

Socially Engaged practice

Collaborative practice might be a way of bridging this. Mariama Attah made a really valuable keynote lecture during adapt on this way of working (2021). Her interest is in overlooked visual culture, which I believe my project falls into. Her discussion centered around the ways that we can share power as photographers and having a collective voice. I need to do more. I have been very focused on understand a narrative from my own perspective and collection images without necessarily talking through the process with my family, apart from the correspondence that I have sent out to my grandmother. I think the lack of response from her has created a certain apprehension in talking to my parents at any length about the project. This is something that I must challenge as it potentially could lead to a problematic end result that does not include those I am photographing.

Attah noted elements of a socially engaged practice (2021):

  • Collaboration
  • Conversation
  • Empathy
  • Acting as an Ally
  • Questioning photography’s history
  • Privilege and Power
  • Advocacy

I now need to look at some of these elements much more closely and investigate whether I am using them faithfully, for example:


I identified this early in in the project but have yet to explore it fully. I have conducted two interviews with distant uncles and also spoken to a cousin who I haven’t seen in 10 years. I must start the process with my mother. I think that I have found this to be too close for me to get past so far, as Marianne Hirsh also noted “Perhaps it is the familial look itself that makes it difficult to read this picture which will not reveal any identifiable truth” (1997, p. 104) where the same might be true of any familial exchange I may have with close family members. It remains important to continue working through this the conversations I have with more and more of my family will enable a more empathetic approach, another one of Attah’s socially engaged elements


Now that I have come across more and more of the extreme views held by members of my family, it creates the question of how much advocacy these ideas should be allowed. The have every right to believe them. They are also an interesting evolution in the idea of the unreliable narrator – but that doesn’t mean that I should include for either of these reasons. It will be important to consider the reaction of others towards them should I choose to include the images, which will be an important part of the conversation, above.

Comparing to others:

Figure 4: Anthony Luvera (2014) ASSISTED SELF-PORTRAIT OF JOE MURRAY

How is my approach comparing to others? Anthony Luvera is a photographer that I have looked at previously during the MA, his approach to community and socially engaged projects is possibly one of the best examples of how this approach can foster a faithful representation of all involved (Fig: 4). His interest in the ethics of photography is something that I keep returning to, as he states “One of the things about any kind of social practice, whether it be within the expanded field of photographic practice, or another art form such as applied theatre, is a tension between the process of working with participants and the products that are created and then circulated to audiences” (Luvera in Homer, 2019) echoing the thoughts of Attah, when she noted “Photography’s history has been about classifying people & object in orders of worth and value” (2021). A key takeaway from my last supervisor meeting with Wendy was an idea of belief, which I feel is a way of creating a respectful approach to the work. Ultimately, I must move forward by conversing with the people in my project to discuss this idea of belief and how best they wish that belief to be represented.


Attah, M., 2021. Adapt 21: Responding Through Curating. Falmouth: Falmouth Flexible.

Critchlow, H., 2021. The Science of Fate. 1 ed. London: Hodder Paperbacks.

Hirsch, M., 1997. Family Frames: Photography, Narrative and Postmemory. 2012 Reissue ed. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press.

Luvera, A., 2019. Anthony Luvera – interview: ‘Photography is a way of telling stories about the world’ [Interview] (15 August 2019).

Vosoughi, S., Roy, D. & Aral, S., 2018. The spread of true and false news online. Science, 359(6380), pp. 1146-1151.

Recent shoot reflections 18/04/21

I am still no closer to understanding the reasons behind rifts and images within the archive. My mother is fairly closed about the topic and I have yet to really probe that aspect. I have also not had a reply from my grandmother as of yet, so there is no real chance of uncovering anything from the other side. Does this matter? I recently had a peer critique with Claire, who questioned whether I was going to provide some kind of answer to all of this or if it should remain unsolved. There is potential to completely change the way the work reads if I were to over explain and try to give answers. I am not really concerned that I might not find them either. The universality in the work, in the sense of the fractured family, as pointed out by Claire is what makes it interesting, which was a comment I received during the portfolio reviews. This idea of mystery keeps it interesting, with the potential to keep coming back to it and trying to work this thing out.

Figure 1: Phil Hill (April, 2021) Images collected from archive and recent photographs [before editing]

Now that the restrictions have lifted a bit, I have been able to continue the project and add more of my own images to the mix. On visiting my parents, I was very interested in all of the objects that they have within the family home that are linked to parts of this, feeding the unreliable narrator within the project. My parents have never really kept many family images on shelves and mantles etc, this is in great contrast to my wife’s family homes, which display many generations of family on the walls and on shelves. This led me to consider other items and objects on display that have links and represent the themes within my work. For example, the image of the sunflowers is a painting made by my brother dated 1997, it has been on the wall above the television since then. The image was framed for us by my grandmother and probably one of the last links through an object that we have in the house. This idea of objects is something that I am coming back to, in anthropological terms they are a way of learning about people and cultures in the absence of them. Matthew Engelke refers to an idea of ‘material culture’ (2017: 6-7), which defines the way that anthropologists and also archaeologists can learn about a people from the things that they leave behind and I can also use the objects with in the archive and within the family home to better understand in the absence of members of my own family – in their absence.

An interesting development related to the pandemic, is in the additional distance it places on my view of my parents home, which is also my childhood home. There was always part of this as I live in the South East, my parents two and a half hours away in the South West, limited the amount of trips I make to see them under normal circumstances. With the pandemic, there are more limits placed and I have not seen them for nearly a year. Owing to the research of my project, I have found that the way I look through objects within the house quite differently. I would never call this objectively, but an element of distance means that I can start to document without a usual emotive connection attached to it. Wayne C. Booth’s definition of the unreliable narrator places variations of distance between the characters, the narrator, and the author of the story (1975: 155), and I will need to determine how much distance I place between myself and the project. I am the author of the work but also a narrator of it – just as unreliable a the narrative I present. Claire also noted this in our peer discussion, suggesting the consideration of how much of myself I have within the work. It is a personal journey, so on the one hand I should be included somehow. However, the universality of the fractured family could mean that I can work to make the project broader with me presenting and narrating the work for the reader.


Booth, W. C., 1975. The Rhetoric of Fiction. 11 ed. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.

Engelke, M., 2017. Think Like an Anthropologist. London: Pelican Books.

Communities and Communication Prep

I have spent the past week preparing to discuss my work at the Staffordshire University ‘Community and Communication conference.’ At the end of the last module, I submitted an abstract (Fig: 1) relating to my last wipp, which is based in the local community that I live now. As I have evolved the project and I am no longer looking directly at my local community for the FMP , it kind of felt like I was reverse engineering the presentation and going back to work that I have moved away from. Since completing the presentation and paper I am delivering however, I have found it valuable in the way that I am now able to articulate ideas and also it has identified a number of points of research, which really feed into my current work. As I see it, the project is partly a departure from this idea of exploring community through local spaces and the people that I share it with: Ideas of Barthes’ idiorhythmic separation of sharing spaces but living independent lives and Graham Harmon’s Object Orientated Ontology to reconsider objects and their agency independently from an anthropocentric view point.

Figure 1: Phil Hill (December, 2020) Communities ad Communication research and draft conference abstract.

These are ideas that have heavily influenced my work over the last few modules and are present in my fmp project. Ultimately, that should be the goal of my practice – to construct work positioned in these areas. This should evolve as my practice evolves, which I feel is demonstrated in the way that I have moved past the idea of connection to my adopted town of Watford and into the project about my personal connections and family.

This presentation has also given me the opportunity to scrutinise some of the ideas that I have been putting forward. For example, nostalgia and the way that we consider a past being somehow better. It was important to discuss why this is, which has led to looking at the Derrida concept of ‘Hauntology’ (2006: 10) in how we are effectively haunted by objects and views of the past and represent this through photography.

I was also forwarded some really useful texts from my peers, which have a great deal of relevance to both this presentation and the way that my project has evolved now. Karen Cross and Julia Peck’s editorial on photography, archive and memory (2010: 127-138), which notes a number of areas that will be worth investigating moving forward. For example, “The archive is opened to the threat of memory: the memory of its exclusions” (p. 129), creates a link to the way that Barthes’ discusses how communities seek to exclude those that do not fit with the community ideal. It is important to consider what is not included in the archive – in this case what is not within my family albums, or cut from them. Cross and Peck also pick up on a number of other text that I have been using in my research and specifically reference Marianne Hirsch’s idea of ‘Post-Memory’ and also personal and collective memory (p. 133). This serves to consolidate those ideas and I fully intend to unpack this further and feed it into my current work.

Presenting to the conference (I hope) will be incredibly valuable in my development of research and academia, feeding back into my own teaching practice. One of my aspirations from this MA was to submit and deliver research at a conference. Putting together this discussion and presentation will also be really valuable in positioning my current work in the wider context of the concepts and ideas that I have been developing throughout the MA, which will be useful when I come to write my Critical Review of Practice.


Cross, K. & Peck, J., 2010. Editorial: Special Issue on Photography, Archive. Photographies, September, 3(2), pp. 127-138.

Derrida, J., 2006. Spectres of Marx. New York: Routledge Classics.

Tönnies, F., 2001. Community and Civil Society. Translation ed. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Festival entries

Belfast, Helsinki, Copenhagen
Figure 1: Belfast Photo Festival (2021) Open Submission call
Figure 2: Helsinki Photo Festival (2021) ‘Fearless’ themed submission
Figure 3: Copenhagen Photo Festival (2021) ‘The Censored Exhibition’ themed submission.

I made an entry into exhibiting my work at the next Belfast Photo. This was an early stage of the project and I was keen to consider the idea and create a statement of my submission to frame it as a starting point. The work is evolving, as expected, as I work through the archive and also start to react and respond to the images. Since this submission, I have also made submissions to two further photography festivals – Helsinki Photo, and Copenhagen Photo.

All three festivals have a different theme in order to develop each iteration of the work. I did question whether I should be submitting work to these festivals at a stage in the project where I am still experimenting and working through the materials and each of the submissions I have made is a variation and changed project from the last. However, the core of my concept being the unreliable narrator, I quite enjoy the idea of potentially being selected for more than one of these festivals and having the same project in different iterations exhibited at the same time, which really feeds the unreliable nature of the work. Of course, that is quite the long shot but it does create an opportunity to think more about the idea of iteration and how my outcome, if producing more than one, could be different and unique to the others in order to undermine the experience of each person reading it. I imagine, that if it were possible to produce a book that contained a number of wholly unique elements that two persons coming together to talk about the work might bring completely different readings of the work.