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.


Figure 1: Phil Hill (March & April 2020) Diptych from Informing Contexts WIPP.

I have started to experiment with the idea of throwing the focus of my images, which is something that I started initially for my Informing Contexts WIPP (Fig: 1). What I have found in the black and white landscapes that I am applying this to, is there is a kind of flatness to the image. Uta Barth refers to her work being about the image themselves (Barth, 2012), in that her shallow depth of field forces the viewer to consider the surface of the photographer as much as trying to work out the content that Barth has photographed (Fig: 2). In the book ‘Art and Objects,’ Graham Harmon noted this in the chapter ‘The Canvas is the Message’ (2020, pp. 83-110), which is also in reference to Marshall Mcluhan’s ‘Medium is the Message’ (1967) suggesting that it is important to  analyse the medium that the content and ‘message’ is being presented and its impact on the concept. As Harmon discusses on Clement Greenberg: “For the most part, Greenberg was fixated on insisting that content in avant-garde painting must signal awareness of the chief feature of its medium; flatness” (2020, p. 85). And this is an observation that seems to be shared by David Campany when he discusses the work of Robert Rauschenberg (Fig: 3), stating: “here, the flatness of the canvas was emphasised, as opposed to the deep space of realist pictorial illusion” (2020, p. 106).

Figure 2: Uta Barth (1994) Ground #42
Figure 3: Robert Rauschenberg (1963) Scanning.

There is an acknowledgement here that the material has its role to play in first the construction and then the reading of it. By reducing the depth of field and visual information the outcome is as much about the medium as the objects depicted, which in turn can place the photographer into the scene. The awareness that this is a photograph by the image moving further along the spectrum of indexical, which highlights the influence that the medium has over the outcome.

Where I find it useful to experiment with is how I find my connection to this place continually tenuous. It is also a useful method in exploring where the countryside starts to become urban, which is something impossible to photograph as a clearly defined thing. The blur creates its own boundary that I can hang these ideas on.

Throwing Focus Experiment outcome 19/10

Reflection 19/10

I am quite happy with the way that these have turned out. There is a quality created by the blur that makes me want to investigate the contents of the image much more (ignoring that I know already). Although I enjoy these images and like the short series that it presents, I am still unsure on how they might fit into the wider narrative. This is potentially a personal challenge as I still find it hard to remove the iconic element of the image – I just want to focus it. That said, this was shot in a location that I have created work before, and that work might be considered tried, tested, even derivative of imagery seen before, so this is a useful way of breaking that kind of image making.

Additionally, I have just started reading ‘Edgelands’ (Farley & Symmonds Roberts, 2011), which was recommended to me by both Colin and Andy during a couple of my webinars. The book is becoming revelatory to the way that I have been approaching my project and consider what I have been looking for in my landscape work. As a result, I am considering working more with the type of image that I created for the last module wipp, and really refine my approach to look at and explore some of the concepts presented in ‘Edgelands.’

Not to discount the throwing focus experiment however, just that presently there does not seem to me a way of constructing my narrative using these disparate elements, which I am keen to avoid owing to some previous WIPP feedback for Informing Contexts.  


Barth, U., 2012. Light, Looking: Uta Barth [Interview] (22 March 2012).

Campany, D., 2020. On Photographs. 1 ed. London: Thames and Hudson.

Farley, P. & Symmonds Roberts, M., 2011. Edgelands – Journeys into England’s true Wilderness. London: Vintage.

Harmon, G., 2020. Art and Objects. 1st Paperback ed. Cambridge: Polity Press.

McLuhan, M., 1967. The Medium is the Massage. Paperback ed. London: Penguin.

Starting to consider the metaphysical landscape & looking at: Awoiska Van Der Molen

Identifying that I need to develop my approach to photographing the land to then create better links between people and place, I have started to consider key terms in how I might begin to interact with the land and the way that I photography differently.

Figure 1: Phil Hill (June, 2020) Garston Nature reserve, Watford.

Much of my recent research has focused away from an anthropocentric interpretation of the object, or at least acknowledging that the object also has an impact on the way that it can be interpreted by humans. Graham Harmon’s view of an object orientated ontology invites us to consider that “All objects must be given equal attention, whether they be human, natural, cultural, real or fictional” (2018: 6). I have given a considerable amount of attention into the way the inanimate has a fundamental impact on the animate reading, without fully appreciating how the conceptual and the metaphysical can also exist in this space (Fig: 1). It has been useful consider ways that the object exists without anthropocentrism thrust upon it however, ultimately my own interpretation will continue to shape the way that I approach anything. Additionally, the idea of giving everything equal attention as Harmon suggests has clearly not been evident in my work up to this point, leading to the feedback on the need for the metaphorical to be more present in my non-portraits – even referring to these images as non-portraits creates the sense for me and for the reader that they are merely secondary to the people I am photographing.


Roger W. Hepburn notes that any aesthetic appreciation of the landscape can also allow for reflection and more cognitive elements to exist alongside its visual appeal (1996: 191) however, there are also times where representation in art versus the reality of the scene might create dissonance in this appreciation:

“the aesthetic assimilation of human artefacts, industrial objects like pipelines, or a power station on an estuary, or a windfarm on a hilltop – drawing these into the world of his painting […] why is it quite different (for many people) with aesthetic appreciation of nature – revulsion at the slicing of a Down, let us say by a motorway cutting?”

(p. 193)

We seem to value the impact – even when negative – of humans on the landscape as if the art creates space for the aesthetic appreciation of degradation, which in some way might explain the appeal of subjects such the vernacular and the banal.

Wanting to start my exploration in the land within the idea of where the rural becomes urban (Beynon, et al., 2016), I could also start to see how the impact of humans starts to build up and become the city. Of course, the idea of rural has its own human trace and impact, especially in a country like the UK; it is quite a rare thing to discover an area that has be untouched by a human presence – in the south east anyway. Showing how the land changes as you move closer to the more urban elements of this area is something that can be explored in a relative straight forward way, allowing to experiment with methods of recording it. My first shoots therefore will aim to show this change and also the build-up of human traces, which may start to reveal how the community interacts with place.

Awoiska Van Der Molen
Figure 2: Awoiska van der Molen (2014) #245-18.

Awoiska Van Der Molen was suggested in the first webinar with Colin to one of my peers however, I decided to also look up her work and found that it really resonated with me. Molen seems to really utilise the medium of black and white film photography and traditional dark room methods (Fig:2), which is where much of my research led me during the last module; in order to better execute my own research project I felt it important to explore the aspects of the medium that I was using, push its boundaries and embrace its limitations. As I have written before, black and white also provides an established series of readings of a work, it also draws attention to the process of photography, which firmly places the photographer at the centre of the work, something that Molen acknowledges in her process. When referring to her exhibition prints and the “traces that someone was working on it” (Molen in French, 2020), which are formed from the traditional printing process that she uses. This drawing attention to the process of her photography is what separates her work from how Hepburn describes as the “aesthetic appeal” of other works that is without the cognitive recognition or “metaphysical imagination” (1996: 191) that Molen has specifically sought to move away from:

“so I found I was feeling really outside the landscape. Trip after trip this happened, until I decided I had to go deeper. I needed to find something beyond the kind of perspective we have learned from landscape painting and find something more personal”


What is interesting about Molen’s comments is in the idea of learned knowledge from established tropes such as painting. I have been openly referencing how black and white draws from a learned knowledge and aim to continue this to a certain degree however, it is important not to fall into the trap of creating work that is a derivative of what already exists. Looking at Molen’s approach, it is possible to continue using the process in a way that still draws the attention to it but also not being a copy if what already exists. My reference to the documentary canon, should now start to develop into part of the process over full emulation.

Figure 3: Awoiska van der Molen (2014) #212-7.

The approach will need investigating. Do I aim to use the qualities of the camera or the qualities of post-production. Molen uses both at different stages to build her outcome (Fig: 3). Not to emulate (as stated above), I do want to see how each of these methods will have an impact on my work.


Beynon, M., Cawley, A. & Munday, M., 2016. Measuring and Understanding the differences between urban and rural areas, a new approach for planners. Environment and Planning B. Urban Analytics and city Science, 43(6).

Harmon, G., 2018. Object Orientated Ontology – A New Theory of Everything. 1st ed. London: Pelican Books.

Hepburn, R. W., 1996. Landscape and the Metaphysical Imagination. Environmental Values, 5(3), pp. 191-204.

Molen, A. v. d. M., 2020. Blanco: Silent Landscapes [Interview] 2020.

New Materialism & Object Agency – Another ‘Berlin’

During the module break, I aimed to consolidate some of the research that I have been doing on the photographic object and the idea of agency in both animate and inanimate objects, which has become important in the way that I start to include myself into the images that I produce. I wrote an essay that also coincided with a ‘call for papers’ on new materialism from Canadian art journal ‘Esse.’ As a lecturer, I am keen to develop my theoretical underpinning of my art practice and consider writing a fundamental area to support my practice.