Vanessa Winship

Vanessa Winship (2008) Schoolgirls from the Borderlands  of Eastern Anatolia
Vanessa Winship (2013) Colleen, Lexington, Kentucky

I am familiar with the imagery that she produced for ‘Sweet Nothings’ (Fig: 1) and also with some of the individual images from ‘She Dances in Jackson’ (Fig: 2) however not the complete series, which I am finding a really interesting place to look and research. Winship’s use of Black and White is a conscious choice and a method, as she puts it ‘showing that the world is, in fact, in colour’ (2015) and I am very drawn to that concept having become interested in the photograph as an object as it feels very much as though the black and white is a method of highlighting not only that our world is colour (at least our perception of it), it is also a way of showing that the world has been photographed. This also ties in quite well with how Vilem Flusser discusses the use of black and white photography as a way of logically analysing the world (Flusser, 2000). Winship’s approach really resonated with me when looking at her work. Her consideration to the subject and the use of a medium specifically designed to slow down the process of taking images, which was something that Alys Tomlinson mentioned when also making the switch to black and white film for her series ‘Ex-Voto’ and cited Winship as influential in taking this approach to her project. Roughly two thirds of the book ‘She Dances on Jackson’ are landscapes, which is interesting for someone who is primarily associated for her portraits. However, when speaking with Ben Smith, Winship notes that the landscapes are as much about people as her portraits are, meaning that these images are a Significant part of any body of work that Winship is creating.  And she goes on to discuss more about this relationship between people and landscapes for an interview with the British Journal of Photography:

“I would like to convey something about fragility, about how both the landscape and the human beings who inhabit it are marked by their history and their place within in it, here and now”

(Winship, 2014)

Winship is also aware of the photograph as a subjective act and considers what she does as a junction between chronicle and fiction, which is a significant acknowledgment of how her works exists with elements of the documentary aesthetic but also constructed in its narrative. I find this the most interesting about her work as she is also making reference to the act of photography and the object of the photograph in her work.

My Project

It feels that any image made during this time, which considers people and community will inevitably be compared to how we are coping and living with covid-19 and the ‘new normal.’ During the last module this was thrust upon my project and I had to react to it. During the period between modules I was still continuing to take images, albeit not really to do with my research project but very much looking at what we all were seeing at the time and what I have since see a number of photographers focus projects on – discarded items of PPE that seem to occupy the landscape around us (Fig: 3). Now that I am back creating work for my research project, I wanted to actively avoid these objects, knowing that as people come to view my work it will be read as being about these concepts and ideas naturally. I can hint at this however, through the title of the work, for example, which considers the power of how image and text work together, as Barthes points out: “Formally, there was a reduction from text to image; today there is amplification from the one to the other” (1977:26).

Figure 3: Spencer Murphy (2020) Discarded glove from ‘Our Bullet Lives Blossom as They Race Towards the Wall’ taken during the recent lock down.

My intention is to call this body of work ‘I hope this finds you safe and well,’ which is a phrase that I have adopted to open correspondence such as emails. This was to adapt the common phrase ‘I hope that this email finds you well,’ the emphasis is on the word ‘safe’ that should resonate with the audience, as the word has come to symbolise this period.

Alec Soth (2004) Venice, Louisiana, 2003, from ‘Sleeping by the Mississippi’

Even though I may not be looking for the artifacts of the pandemic to include in my work, I believe that there is still an anxiety in the people and the landscape, which I am aiming to include in the images. My project has inevitably evolved as a result into a kind of post lock down exploration and journey through the landscape, which is starting to consider Watford one of the characters in the narrative as much as any of the portraits might be. It is important to start considering this and had been a key point of my feedback received for the project so far. Essentially, I really need to ground the narrative in the place, much like Alec Soth does with his work ‘Sleeping by the Mississippi’ (Fig: 4). Soth considers the river a metaphor for the kind of wandering that is present within the book (Soth in Schuman, 2004). Soth also is considering the mythology inherent in this part of the US, connected to the perception of ‘America’ through the culture that we consume, which strikes an interest for me me as there are elements of this through the research into documentary photography and the way that we expect that kind of photography to look based on the documentary canon of images that exist already.

What is a Watford then?

For me Watford has always felt like a place without a clear identity. Its proximity to London means that a vast majority of people who live here, do so to commute into the city. This same proximity also means that the shear size of London and its cultural content dwarfs anything that might happen within Watford itself. The town is inside the M25 roadway that surrounds Greater London but it is not part of the capital, though it is considers an Urban district. As well as the M25, there are a great number of other significant transport links in the town: Heathrow, Luton, the M1 and the A1 are nearby; the high speed rail link that goes to Euston, the Metropolitan underground station, and the Overground all run from Watford. All of these are designed to speed people away.

Historically, there is also the Grand Union canal running from London to Birmingham and it was the introduction of the canal as well as the railway that led to Watford’s initial rapid growth leading to its establishment of a major printing town (Moorhead, 2014), where the place that I work was once called the Watford college of printing, responsible for training typesetters and printers for the newspaper industry in the UK and also the world and also the production of all government propaganda during WW2. If Watford was to have had an identity it would have potentially been tied to the now defunct printing industry here and also the impact that the education of printers will have had on the printed word. This could of course be an area to consider when creating my own publications.

“Rotary photogravure was a technique which was first used in Watford to reproduce very fine, high quality fine art prints and then it went on to be used to produce colour magazines. All the ladies’ colour magazines, like Woman’s Weekly and Woman’s Own, were all printed in Watford, as well as most of the colour supplements for the Sunday newspapers.“


From a transport perspective Watford appears to lack its own agency as to get anywhere outside of London or Birmingham for example, you must travel into London first. It is a significant commuter town and has evolved to nurture this as it is one of the main reasons for its success as a town. It is also one of the last places that you could encounter before it is London, between London and Countryside. Surrounding Watford, there are a number of really beautiful parks and natural landscapes, which I have started to really take an interest in. I was struck when reviewing my first images that some of them almost look like they could be North America, a particular resonance for me and my Canadian wife.

Linking back to my use of black and white, its use by Winship and other photographers is a way of drawing attention to the fact that something is being photographed. It could also be that this acknowledgment of the medium in the image is a way to place myself into the narrative, albeit subtly. I am there through the act of photography without having to be in any of the images as a subject. There needs to be a further development in the landscape and really placing Watford as one of the central characters of the project together with the portraits and the use of black and white, which places me as another character.


Barthes, R., 1977. Image, Music, Text. Translation ed. New York: Fontana.

Flusser, V., 2000. Towards a Philosophy of Photography. 2018 Reprint ed. London: Reaktion Books.

Moorhead, R., 2014. At one time nearly everyone living in Watford had a job connected to the print industry. Now Dr Caroline Archer has put together an exhibition – 100 Years of Printing Education. She talks to Rosy Moorhead. [Online]
Available at:
[Accessed 8 July 2020].

Schuman, A. & Soth, A., 2004. The Mississippi: An Interview with Alec Soth. [Online]
Available at:
[Accessed 8 July 2020].

Winship, V., 2014. Still dancing: Vanessa Winship discusses her work [Interview] (6 August 2014).

Winship, V., 2015. A Small Voice: Conversations with Photographers – 03 – Vanessa Winship: [Interview] (11 September 2015).

Starting to Consider: Exhibition

I have started to consider how I want my work to be viewed in the lead up to the Landings exhibition and how it actually provides me with an opportunity to really analyse my online presence and start to create a curated online platform for myself that is much more focused on the kind of photography I am developing during this time.

Figure 1: Phil Hill (2020) Top of website homepage, which uses the WordPress theme ‘Sketch,’ before updating.

My website was initially set up much like my MA blog, utilising WordPress and one of their themes called ‘Sketch’ (Fig: 1), which is also the same theme as this CRJ.​*​ I have always liked the flexibility of the WordPress platform having used the blogging platform for over 10 years, more so after they introduced the portfolio feature for projects. WordPress has a massive community network in terms of support and people creating functionality for it, if there is a custom function that I want to use for my own site, chances are that there is a plugin available. It was also great to find out that Falmouth is keen on it and rolls it out for the CRJ meaning that I had prior experience that I could fall back on. The biggest draw of WordPress of course is that it is primarily free (with some exceptions for functionality and premium features), which creates a powerful tool at entry level.

Figure 2: Phil Hill (2020) Bottom of website homepage displaying WordPress logo and links

The challenge has always been that usually the free options equal some sort of compromise. For example, the need to display the ‘powered by WordPress’ logo at the bottom of the site (Fig: 2), which could be removed with some tinkering of the code, this is quite a challenge for someone like me with little coding knowledge and could lead to a broken website. Although, not the end of the world, this display always felt a little unprofessional. A great number of websites that I have been looking at by other photographers, have a horizontal scrolling feature (Fig: 3), which creates an aesthetically pleasing way to look at a sequenced project, in a similar way to how you might read a narrative in a book. I feel that this is important as it can be a way of establishing an initial way to consume the work as I intended.

Figure 3: Luke Stephenson (2020) Horizontal scrolling gallery feature using the Format platform.

There are a number of sites that offer this kind of portfolio website experience including Format and Squarespace. I have previously used the American based Photoshelter when I was freelancing because it had a really good image proof and delivery function as well as full resolution storage, however even that was limited and would not allow me to do everything that I wanted. These examples are also premium subscription services, which I cannot really justify at this stage. Ultimately there are still going to be the inevitable compromises and it is a case of working out the ones that I willing to accept.

My website, although I updated just before the beginning of the MA, was quite bloated, and now that I am adding galleries for my most recent projects, it was also confused. My website was a platform for promoting my freelance practice as a travel and lifestyle photographer, however this is not something that I have done professionally for a few years (although I do still take on commissions and license work); my practice is evolving into more of an art practice concerned with longer term research projects (Such as the ones conducted during the MA).

It is important for the audience of my work not to be confused with the work that I presenting on my site, even though it is useful to show the types of professional work that I have conducted, as this shows a level of competence and professionalism. It is also important that the form and function of my website also create a framework (or surface) for the effective dissemination and consumption if my work.

Figure 4: Phil Hill (2020) New website homepage featuring a minimalist design, distinctive typeface and horizontal scrolling gallery.
Figure 5: Phil Hill (2020) Horizontal scrolling gallery

After some research, I found a well-designed theme that can be used with WordPress and would effectively display my work and could be rolled out to my website ready for the Landings exhibition at the end of the month (Fig: 4). I have decided to utilise a minimalist design that hides the menu unless clicked on as well as the important horizontal scrolling feature (Fig: 5). The website also adapts well when viewed on a mobile device, which is a fundamental consideration as this is a primary means of viewing. The theme also utilises two different typefaces, which creates an aesthetically pleasing means to display my work and lifts it beyond the ‘sketch’ theme that I had been using (Fig: 6).

Figure 6: Phil Hill (June, 2020) Updated website screen recording for computer browser view [Top] and as viewed on a mobile device [Bottom].

There are still a couple of elements that I would change, for example, there is an automatic numbering of images within galleries that could become distracting to the reader of the work, so I may look into removing this at some point in the future. I have also hide a lot of the content that was on my old site, including tear sheets, and my published work examples, which is something that will be important to create a solution for display.


Figure 7: Phil Hill (June, 2020) Example of how to utilise a community display board – Before & After

I have been considering how best to display my work for the landings exhibition with the idea of creating a community based display. For example, I quite like the idea of creating a kind of ‘art trail’ approach where the work can be displayed in the places that I took the images. This would create an opportunity for the community to view the work in situ. It also creates a re-tracing of the journey that I was making during the process of creating the work, which would hopefully create meaning and connection to the people and place. There are two ways that I though could work well for this. Firstly, during my walks around the local area that I live, I noticed a number of community boards for displaying local information, one method of display could be to ‘take-over’ these displays and present my portraits (Fig: 7). Secondly, an idea that is more grand in approach could be to display large scale prints in the locations that they were taken that could either be discovered by the people using the facilities, or be part of an art trail (Fig: 8). In addition to these approaches, there is an opportunity to support the display with a small publication or catalogue of the exhibition that includes a map of the art trail. I could also incorporate a workshop where participants could walk the art trail with me and we can discuss community engaged photography projects.

Figure 8: Phil Hill (June, 2020) Digital composite of how a large scale print might look in the location it was created.
Current situation

Owing to the ongoing restrictions, my concern is that these ideas are simply not feasible so my intention is to utilise what I have developed for my online platform with the aim to utilise it in an effective local manner. Now that I have established a professional presence with my updated website, I want to use the landings exhibition as a means of self-marketing as well as the online gallery having the potential to outlast the 7-day exhibition itself. Local community engagement is still important to the work and its dissemination so my intention is to seek local means for disseminating the exhibition as opposed to merely adding a link and some images to Instagram. An example of this could be by utilising the local network within Watford like the community noticeboard ‘Next Door.’ There is also an opportunity to contact ‘Watford BID,’ who promote local events. This might be quite valuable as I could also work with them in the future for such promotion. Having an online gallery in place for a year also creates an opportunity for visitors throughout the 12 months.

My intention is to support my exhibition gallery with potentially a downloadable publication of the work or even a physical version that can be purchased through my website. This is not something that I have done before but am keen to explore, building on the experience of creating zines.

How much you consider the audience when making your work?

This question is something that I think that I have been answering, yet possibly not really in enough detail. People do seem to respond well to my work, however I find it increasingly difficult to ‘break through.’ Potentially, the presentation of my online portfolio could have been a factor as it is fundamental that the work should be presented in a professional way. There of course could be innumerate reasons for the work not cutting through, however it could very well be that I am actually not considering the audience of it. Defining who wants to consume my photography is key to the success of the work.

How much you would allow a curator to influence the reading of your work?

Considering the above, I think it would be important to engage with others who might be more experienced art curation than me. It is important to maintain my intentions and how I wished for the work to be read when I created it. However, it is important to remember that I also do not have exclusive rights over the reading of my work, that is an impossibility. It is also useful to engage with other professionals in the dissemination of the work, primarily because as the artist, I will be very close to the project and may not see the value in particular sequences.

How curators could be useful to your practice?

Vanessa Winship on discussing her first book, stated that although she valued the opportunity and process of making the book, she felt that she was having to compromise more than she would have liked (Winship in Smith, 2015). Experince may have played a part in this leading to a lack of compromise in making the decisions about her own work. I do stand by the need to work with other professionals however, expertise in fields I am not familiar in is ultimately invaluable. For Jack Latham’s ‘Sugar Paper Theories’ exhibition at the Royal Photographic society (Latham, 2019), curator Mark Rawlinson discussed the differences between the exhibition over the book, noting that the linear nature of the book allows only for one way to consume the narrative of the book, whereas the exhibition opens up multiple ways to view and construct a narrative from the work as the audience is freed up to walk around the space and consider the images presented as they see fit. According to Rawlinson the non-linear  conspiratorial narrative of ‘Sugarpaper Theories’ is a particularly good example of how two successful sequences can work (Rawlinson & Latham, 2019). That exhibition did feel like there was a good collaboration happening between Latham and Rawlinson, which led to its ultimate success.

  1. ​*​
    I am considering moving this blog onto the new theme, however I may not do this during the MA. Primarily because I would not want to break anything!

Latham, J., 2019. Sugar Paper Theories. Bristol: Royal Photographic Society.

Rawlinson, M. & Latham, J., 2019. Sugar Paper Theories Gallery Walk & Talk. Bristol: Royal Photographic Society.

Winship, V., 2015. A Small Voice: Conversations with Photographers – 082 – Vanessa Winship: “And Time Folds” Special [Interview] (11 September 2015).

Reflecting on Medium and Craft

Figure 1: Phil Hill (June, 2020) unedited portrait of Oliver, which was buckled when loaded for processing – shown by the crescent highlight bottom right of the image.

I am having to really consider the medium I have begun to use for this module. I have identified that I am in need of re-learning the process of shooting and using the medium format full time. For example, since starting to shoot film again, I have encountered a number of technical challenges to overcome whilst processing and scanning at home (in part a challenge related to the current covid-19 lock down). I have buckled film loading (Fig: 1), underdeveloped once, and had an issue with light leaking film backs. Some of this could be attributed to the current pandemic, however I approached the medium with an assumed confidence that I had once used these materials so would be able to run with it again. Therefore, I have decided to go back to some of the basics to better understand this new apparatus that I have started to use to the point of properly keeping film temperatures and specific agitation for the film I am processing.

105mm @ f5.6
105mm @ f16
105mm @ f8
105mm @ f22
105 @ f11

Figure 2: Phil Hill (June, 2020) Depth of Field test using 105mm lens ranging from f5.6 – f22

One of the main challenges I have had, is some of the images that I have made are soft focus, which is something that I would normally check on location however instead I am making one or two frames of the subject. Depth of field is a very early lesson in learning the technique of photography and something that I aim to utilise in my own portraiture. A sharp subject and shallow depth of field creates effective framing to encourage the viewer of the image to remain looking at the subject, which I have placed value. This is one of the most effective tools to construct a dominant reading of the work subjectively by the photographer. It is also aesthetically pleasing in the way that it abstracts the way that we process information of the world.  Soft or missed focus negates an effective execution of the idea contained in the image, so I felt it fundamental to the execution of the project to re-learn the specifics of the 6×7 apparatus. I have been aiming for a shallow DOF of around f4, however owing to the larger size of the format over my full-frame DSLR, there is a difference in how the DOF translates into the image, which I did not consider myself. Ultimately, there is around a 4 times difference in sizes, which means that a 50mm standard lens size on full frame equals 105mm to cover increased format size. Without trying to get to far into the technicalities of it, what I have not been factoring in is that the 105mm lens will still give the same DOF results regardless of the size of the film, or emulsion; the f4 I have been aiming for is more like f1.0 meaning a significantly smaller amount of headroom to get the shot, especially as a glasses wearer using a camera without dioptre adjustment or autofocus.

These might be considered to be rudimentary and frustrating lessons to have to re-learn, especially studying at a MA level, however it is also really pushing me to consider my craft. As I have come to research the impact that apparatus and the subjective qualities of the materials and medium it is important to understand them as part of the process of creating an effective project. A well-researched and conceptually strong idea also needs to be well-executed which means a deeper understanding of those materials – apparatus is a key part of that execution. It will also be a good idea to better understand the materials of the chosen film emulsion, which will be an important consideration as although subtle, have a fundamental impact on my project.

Road Map

Title of your work/project, with 3–5 keywords;

‘I hope this finds you safe and well’ (working title – based on many of the emails and communication that I have been making during the last few months).

  • Keywords: Idiorrythm, connection, Identity, community
Methods/methodology you will be exploring;

I am currently exploring new apparatus and the associated processes. Moving outside of my digital comfort zone and onto medium format black and white film, which is in part based on research into a documentary aesthetic and how photographers such as Vanessa Winship, Eli Durst, and Alec Soth have utilised to heighten the idea of nostalgia (linked to the way we view community), and how Winship considers it a way to highlighting the way that the world is in colour. Black and white also considers the photograph as an object as a way to make the reader aware that this is a photograph and how Vilem Flusser suggests that the black and white image can be used as a way of logical analysis of the subject, hence its use as a documentary tool (2000, p. 42). I also aim to explore the qualities that are inherent in film that will bring additional meaning and reading of my project.

Part of my research into the use of Black and White was informed by FSA images of the 1930s referenced by Susan Sontag (1979, p. 6), John Tagg (1988, p. 12), and Sally Stein who considered ‘Migrant Mother’ “as the quintessential 1930s documentary photography” (2020, p. 59). This research, initially brought me to consider the use of black and white seems to have taken on new significance with Boris Johnson announcing yesterday ‘A New Deal’ (Partington, 2020) which was a clear reference to the one of Roosevelt that led to the creation of the FSA photography project and still plays on the mythology of the time and imagery of our learned knowledge.

My aim is to explore the idea of connection through engaging with people in my local community and see if there is a common identity contained within the landscape, the people and the spaces. My project has evolved during the last few months as I start to really identify what it is about this place and people that draws me to photograph them.

Number of shoots you will need;

One of the parameters I have placed onto my project is via the apparatus and its 6×7 format, which means that I can shoot 10 frames per roll of film. This approach need to be considered and planned as I do not have my digital camera to fall back on.

I am also dependent on the weather to conduct shoots, but anticipate that I will conduct roughly 2 shoots per week in order to have a good range of images to edit.

Possible outcomes and where to show them;

My aim is to produce a consistent body of work that might contribute to my broader project goals. Initially, I intend to show the work online as part of the Landings exhibition supported by a publication to create a tangible outcome alongside the digital one.

I will also create a workshop, which can be conducted online and related to engagement within the community. This would potentially with my peer group.

The results you are looking for/expecting;

I hope my new direction in image making will give me a better understanding of why I am making the images that I have been producing for my project.

The relationship between this work/project and overall research for the MA;

My work is a continuation of the idea of connection and identity within my community. Primarily, my intention is to establish an aesthetic style that will be refined and developed to work out the possibilities before moving into the next

Landings exhibition: you need to start thinking about the exhibition and considering how you can work collaboratively. Discuss your strengths with your peers, and what you can offer with regards to organising Landings.

Related to the above, my intention is to exhibit my work online and will explore different possibilities for this.

I would be happy to collaborate and support the Landings exhibition as much as I can. As I have childcare commitments this may not include being a part of the team curating, however, I have experience in using software, such as InDesign and Illustrator, should that be useful.

Additionally, as a lecturer, I would be more than happy to support anyone who wishes to create workshops and help with structure, for example.


Flusser, V., 2000. Towards a Philosophy of Photography. 2018 Reprint ed. London: Reaktion Books.

Partington, R., 2020. How does Boris Johnson’s ‘new deal’ compare with Franklin D Roosevelt’s?. [Online] Available at: [Accessed 1 July 2020].

Sontag, S., 1979. On Photography. London: Penguin.

Stein, S., 2020. Migrant Mother Migrant Gender. 1 ed. London: Mack.

Tagg, J., 1988. The Burden of Representation: Essays on Photographies and Histories. 1st paperback ed. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

Hands off

I have become interested in a number of concepts that I am aiming to explore throughout this module. This has in part been inspired by some of the ‘documentary aesthetic’ research that I have been conducting, which had led me to explore the use of black and white film during this module.

Figure 1: Justine Quinell (2010) Solargraph of Clifton in Bristol showing the rise and fall of the sun.

I actually have been using a similar set-up during this lock-down period to expose a series of ‘solargraphs’ around my home using pin-hole cameras made from beer cans (Fig: 2), which then have photographic paper placed inside to expose over a long period of time. This was inspired by artist Justin Quinnell who creates these that have exposure times of 6 months or more (Fig: 1). My idea was to record the period of time inside the home (Fig: 3).

Figure 3: Phil Hill (March – June, 2020) Solargraph of bedroom exposed during lock down.

The image is built up over time so that you can start to see how the light changes and the rise and fall of the sun tracing over the sky, for example. As a way of showing time, these are really interesting. The photo paper cannot be fixed in the usual way or the image would be ruined, so the paper would continue to expose and eventually turn black, which could be used as a metaphor for the present time, or creating a sense that the photograph itself has a life that begins and ends. At the end of its life, only the digital scan would remain. My primary interest is in portrait photographs, however there are links to be made between this process and how Roland Barthes’ discusses the image: “As if the (terrified) photographer must exert himself to the utmost to keep the photograph from becoming death. But I – already an object, I do not struggle” (Barthes & Wells, 2002, p. 23). In the solargraph , it becomes an object the personifies this decay and is unable to be embalmed as Barthes’ states.

Figure 5: Phil Hill (June, 2020) Window image shot on 35mm film

For the week 4 ‘Hands off’ task, I decided to create a pinhole camera to shoot film, which is something I had never done before. I modified a new beer can pinhole, which needed to be lined in order to make it usable for film and to reduce reflection inside the can. Working out the exposure time was quite a challenge but an important one as I only had a few strips of film to play with. The idea of separation and abstraction has been a feature of some of the work that I am producing, which included the barrier created by my windows. I have come back to this at the start of this module by re-photographing them onto film (Fig: 5), so decided to see how I could abstract the view using a different method.

The fstop for my pinhole camera is around 250, which creates a much longer exposure time. In low light it would have meant factoring in reciprocity failure. However, during the day if metering f22 at 1/30th second, my pinhole would need to expose for 8 seconds. The resulting images show the view through my windows, something that I had not done with my other window images, yet they are still abstracted because of the time it took to expose leading to some inevitable movement (Fig: 6).

Could I use this in my research project?

I think that the technique used is not something that I would take into my research project but the idea of abstraction, which creates a separation in the image is an interesting concept to take forward. I feel that even if the image is strictly lens based, indexical and also iconic, it can still be abstracted. Abstracted in the sense that all images are untruths, All images are unable to be true representations. This could then be introduced to my research project subtly as even a digital scan of my photographs is an abstraction of the negative, which is an abstraction of the reality it recorded.


Barthes, R. & Wells, L., 2002. The Photography Reader: Extracts from Camera Lucida. 4 ed. London: Routledge.

Abstracting the Image: Apparatus to Apparatus

Figure 1: Richard Mosse (2012) Image from Infra, which utilised an infrared film and camera.
Figure 2: Linda Alterwitz (2013) Image from ‘Signature of Heat’

Black and white, photographically, could be considered a method of De-privileging human perception from how we perceive the world around us. We do not see the world in black and white, we see in colour, yet this perception of the world is still limited in the wider spectrum that exists. Richard Mosse as an example, utilises infrared camera technology and film to show the world outside our human range of perception (Fig: 1), additionally, Linda Alterwitz created her series ‘signatures of Heat’ by utilising a thermal imaging camera, which seems to have particular resonance now we are living in the ‘new normal’ (Fig: 2). Although I have used film photography a fair amount in my time as a photographer, being old enough to have studied the subject without digital technology having the kind of impact that it does now, I would not comfortably use the medium to produce work that I was invested in as much as the MA. This is very much tied into the ability to check and recheck on the spot until I was able to achieve the result I needed. The more I am shooting with the medium format camera however, the more careful I have become in the setting up and creating of my images, not to say that I still do not make mistakes – some of the images have come back soft, or in the extreme, technical issues have led to losing images.

Figure 3: Dorothea Lange (1939) ‘Migrant Mother’ before and after retouching.

In terms of viewing the world outside how we perceive it however, Black and white is a more common way of showing us this. Aesthetically we as humans find its look quite pleasing and our collective learned knowledge creates the perception of black and white as ‘art,’ or for more ‘serious’ work, which is born from the collective experience of a history of images presented in black and white; the ubiquity and fame of ‘Migrant Mother’ is a notable example of this, as Sally Stein points out: “often circulated as the centrepiece of the documentary canon” (2020, p. 62), which is despite its problematic approach to the facts surrounding the story and the notorious retouching of the thumb from the frame (Fig: 3). Human perception has in part been shaped by this view of the world even though we do not process the objects within it in this way, these images stay with us and create a collective memory of them.

As I have started to consider the photograph as a kind of object, shooting film creates this in a way that digital does not. The negative is a tangible object and shooting in a 6X7 format also attributes a preciousness to it. I am now acutely aware of each frame shot; each one must be carefully considered as each one costs money to produce. A roll of 120 film cost me between £4.50 – £5 allowing 10 frames per roll of film equaling 50 pence per frame, however factoring in processing and time, this would easily be over a £1 per image. As a process existing outside of my usual comfort zone, it is also an apparatus that I am not used to using either, which links to this week’s consideration of de-privileging the lens. Although I am not rejecting the lens completely, I am moving away from an easier approach to my photography and making it more of a precious object once again; more of a de-privileging the digital sensor and the ease in which I can make my images. These parameters can support a more focused approach to the creation of the work.

Figure 4: Phil Hill (June, 2020) Portrait affected by light leaking into RB67 Film back.

Technically, as mentioned earlier, this is not without its challenges. I had a glitch with an early roll of film that resulted in a serious light leak that ruined the majority of that film (Fig: 4). The portraits that I have been seeking in the public space are hard work for me to approach and shoot as it takes a fair amount of pushing myself to approach people, usually a good couple of weeks in each of the modules spent talking myself into taking these pictures to the point where it might just be easier to do something else, which makes any issues with the results doubly frustrating. However, this does create a more personal connection to the work as I become much more invested in all of the steps of the process in order to achieve a good result. People are at the heart of what I am trying to achieve.

Reality as we perceive it, has qualities and characteristics, which are tangible to us, to our senses, and some qualities, which are not tangible but nether-the-less fundamental to our understanding. By de-privileging the human there is an acknowledgment that the object continues to exist regardless of whether the human perceives it or not, Graham Harmon notes: “the infamous claim that the Pharaoh Ramses II cannot have died of tuberculosis, since in ancient Egypt that disease was not yet discovered”  (2020, p. 33), which points out to us that it is easy to forget that our human perception is just part of the spectrum of representation and things exist outside of our awareness.

When photographing this reality, I am transferring some of these qualities onto the surface of the digital sensor, or the emulsion of the film. Qualities are transferred into an impression of this concrete world yet, there are also the qualities of the medium that are important to consider, which also have an effect on the way that the object based in the reality is perceived. Black and white seem the most obvious because it strips out information that we as humans are used to using to understand the world. However the object exists in multiple ways it can be perceived, outside the human range of perception, as the examples of Mosse and Alterwitz show. Black and white in these terms is an equally valid representation in that it is equally limited.

Figure 5: Sebastiano Pomata & Phil Hill (May, 2020) Negative re-photographed

It occurred to me that even though I am shooting film, I am still reliant on my DSLR to digitise the negative (mainly because of the lock down it is my only means of scanning, yet the point would remain for other forms of digitisation). The qualities transferred from reality onto the film emulsion are once again transferred onto another apparatus, the digital camera; One apparatus transferring to another apparatus. I made reference to this in an earlier exploration, where I took a negative I invited a friend to shoot for me and I copied it onto another roll of film, which appropriates that image and creates an object that is mine even though I have never been to Barcelona (Fig: 5). The reality of the image that I copied becomes even further removed from the reality that my friend Seb originally photographed.

Flusser notes that: “Aparatuses are black boxes that simulate thinking” (2000, p. 32), so what is the thinking that I am trying to simulate? The first black box is the film camera, which is being used to create a sense of the documentary aesthetic, a sense of the nostalgia, to a connection to a past that is perceived to be in decline. I have aimed to start making this palpable in the current idea of the ‘new normal,’ there might be a longing for the time before the pandemic. Aesthetically, I know that the images will be pleasing to look at, as if they could be from ‘another time’ as was noted of Alys Tomlinson’s Ex-Voto series (Molloy, 2019). There is a pathos in our collective understanding of images made during this time.

If reality has qualities that transfer and become in part replaced by the qualities of the film camera and emulsion, then both of these have certain agency over the representation of the object of that image – this agency then takes a role in shaping how we perceive. Those transferred qualities are then transferred and changed again when the negative becomes digitised and the reality recorded is another step removed. This digital image is a copy of a copy and many of the qualities of the black and white negative have been changed, and in some cases limited by the use of the digital camera. Ironically, some of my choices for using film are because of its opposition to the look of digital imagery but needs to be turned into a digital image in order for it to be useful online.

The second black box is the digital camera I am using to ‘scan’ the negative and has become a necessary part of the process to get my work in front of an audience. This black box is used as a means of translating the simulated thinking of the 1st black box into a usable form, yet it is important to consider the process and chain of qualities that have taken place having been fundamentally changed from the recorded reality, apparatus to apparatus.


Flusser, V., 2000. Towards a Philosophy of Photography. 2018 Reprint ed. London: Reaktion Books.

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

Lamarque, P. & Olsen, S. H., 2004. Aesthetics and thne Philosophy of Art. 2 ed. Massachusetts: Blackwell.

Molloy, C., 2019. Alys Tomlinson. [Online] Available at: [Accessed 15 June 2020].

Stein, S., 2020. Migrant Mother Migrant Gender. 1 ed. London: Mack.

PHO703 First Shots

This week’s webinar, I put together a contact sheet of images from my recent medium format film shoots, primarily the portraits that I have begun to collect again (Fig: 1). All of the people in these images are taking very locally to where I live on the recreation ground and playing fields nearby. As the lock down is starting to be lifted, I am seeing many more people come together in these spaces and start to enjoy the outdoors and meet up with people they might not have seen for many weeks.

I have been very pleased with how many of these images are starting to come together. After some initial technical challenges with the equipment and getting used to shooting in this way again, I feel that I have managed to take some string images to move forward with my project and it has been quite a nice validation for my new approach, after having to really work up the courage to engage with people and take their photograph.

This was echoed by Cemre during my feedback, who noted that I have some really good portraits to work with when it comes to the next wipp edit and submission. What I am lacking at the moment is the images, which link all of these people together in terms to the space and connection between them. This is fundamental to the work that I am trying to produce. It was also noted that for this kind of work that is completed in the place where the photographer lives is almost always about the photographer as much as it is about the place, which is something that really resonates with me as my intention for the work has always been to explore the idea of my connection to the place that I live. Although Cemre made reference to this as an idea to explore for the idea of community, it is yet to show effectively in my research project; a series of portraits is not enough for a resolved strong submission.

To develop this, I am considering a number of approaches. I made a comment on Andy’s images from this week that he might want to consider keeping a journal to record his thoughts and feelings whilst taking his images so that he could use the text to support the visual. It occurred to me as I was saying this, that this is something that I should also do as a way of showing my personal narrative in the work via my own reflections before, during and after I take my pictures. Additionally, it is something that I could write when I take my daughter to the same spaces; ultimately, I use these places in a similar way to the people that I am photographing so I should be in there somewhere.

Figure 2: Alec Soth (2010) From ‘Broken Manual’ on Soth’s website

It was suggested that I also take a look at Alec Soth’s ‘Broken Manual’ series (Fig: 2). I have been getting quite familiar with his work ‘Songbook’ in relation to this idea of the documentary aesthetic and how it was employed overtly for this series, however I have not taken a wider look at Soth’s other work (during the MA anyway), so this would be useful to start really considering the way that portrait and landscape images can work together and the potential to re-introduce colour at some point. Another really valuable suggestion was to look at Vanessa Winship’s series ‘She Dances on Jackson’ which is a really beautiful blend of portraiture and landscape images that creates a really strong contextualisation of the work (Fig: 3). I aim to read some more into both of these bodies of work and create a reflection on them.

Figure 3: Vanessa Winship (2013) From She Dances on Jackson

The key takeaway from the webinar was that I need to really start asking the question of what is drawing me to these people, and what is my place within this community? Should I be taking a step back and question why I took this image. Once I have an answer to these questions, I can really start to focus on it.


The idea of non-human photography is an interesting one as at some point in the process there has to have been a human action involved. For example, I was quite taken with Flusser’s assertion that: “The green of a photographed field, for example, is an image of the concept ‘green’, just as it occurs in chemical theory, and the camera (or rather the film inserted into it) is programmed to translate this concept into the image” (2000:43) And the same could be said of how a digital sensor resolves an image according to its programmed values. Each film emulsion and camera sensor has qualities that are unique to them, which have been developed by a human. For example, the way that a Canon camera is able to resolve skin-tones vs the way a Nikon is able to all have a subtle impact in the way that the image is read and albeit highly subtle, a bias can be attributed to these differing programmed values.

Figure 1:  Nikolaus Studnicka (2004) Overview and detail of the digital elevation model of the Giza Plateau created by 4 single scans from the top of the Cheops Pyramid visualised in ARC GIS 8.2

For my example, I have chosen this laser scan of the pyramids (Fig:1), which is slowly replacing the use of large format film cameras as a way of recording them. It is a non-lens based technology that is started and then left to conduct multiple scans the object (in this case one of the pyramids of Giza), which is then composited together to form the image. The use of ai and computational modelling is part of the process in creating these images. Arguably more representative than any traditional form of lens based capture as it requires direct contact of the laser to the object in order to create an image vs photographic reflection of light, however a human would have created the technology and the program for it to run.


Flusser, V., 2000. Towards a Philosophy of Photography. 2018 Reprint ed. London: Reaktion Books.

Zine making and Reflecting

I have found the process of zine making a really valuable experience, which has forced me to consider other voices in my own creative process. Working with others means that it is possible to draw on a range of skill sets that are not particular strengths of my own, which results in a much stronger outcome that I might have been able to achieve independently. This was really valuable during the editing and compiling stage of the zine making. I was also able to input some of my other skill sets to support and collaborate in the project, including illustration. In any kind of team project, there is potential for members to become side-lined, however everyone in our zine group was able to contribute something valuable.

Figure 1: PANTONE (2020) Pantone colours listed under ‘Ginger’

At the very start of the week we discussed potential roles for the zine. Tim had a clear experience and background so was made team leader and was able to provide really insightful background on zines, their history and significance. Outside of photography, I was unaware of zines outside of photography. Victoria and Isabelle offered to source and create content, together with Ross who suggested that he could also picture edit, having some experience there. Andy has experience writing so offered to provide some copy and create a short text, which provided the context for the zine’s opening page. This left me to support the design and layout with support from the others.

Figure 1: UK Government (2016) Cover from EU referendum leaflet, which uses Helvetica as its typeface.

I wanted to incorporate some illustration to create a zine with a multidisciplinary approach but which maintains it photographic underpinning through the method of remixing images. I also have a fair amount of experience with InDesign so wanted to offer my support there.

We all came up with a range of ideas initially, which were discussed by the group. There were a number of politically and topical ideas, which on balance we decided to move away from owing to the short amount of time in which to do these kinds of subjects’ justice. It was also felt that looking at the current pandemic as a subject was leading to a kind of over saturation of the topic and again in order to really do it justice, some distance would be need together with time. ‘Ginger’ was decided as the subject, in all of the ways that the word might be interpreted. We collectively thought that the process of this week’s task would be the most value, so by focusing on a word, it was a good way to explore the very different ways that it could be represented in a zine format.

Figure 3: F37 Type Foundary (2013) ‘F37 Ginger’ Typeface example.

The theme created an opportunity to define some of the design features of the zine through the colour scheme, and typeface. Colour theory has an important role to play in semiotics, so this it is important to understand how the colour of our zine would be read by the audience. I utilised colours that are titled ‘ginger’ from the Pantone range (Fig: 1) as it provides a quick way to input the values from these swatches into InDesign and the other Adobe software that we were using, which maintains consistency across the design. Typical for Zines to have a kind of handmade aesthetic, I felt it important that the main text and anything that we wanted to flow through the pages as a narrative would be legible and able to be picked up quickly by the audience. Sans Serif is the obvious choice for this, owing to its legibility and graphic quality. For example, Helvetica is used by a range of governmental organisations because of its authoritative way of conveying information (Helvetica, 2007) such as the government leaflet on Britain’s exit from the EU (Fig: 2). This together with images can have a fundamental impact on the reading and the narrative of the overall message. For ‘Ginger’ I discovered that there was a really great sans serif called ‘f37 ginger’ (Fig: 3), which felt perfect for the project, however this was a commercial typeface, which was cost prohibitive for our purpose. Instead, I settled for an openly available typeface from google called ‘oswald’ that had a similar look to ‘f37 ginger.’

Figure 4: Phil Hill (2020) Ed Sheeran Illustration

Figure 5: Gareth Cattermole (2019) Ed Sheeran reference image.

Figure 6: Phil Hill (June, 2018) Illustration made using reference photographs

I contributed two main artworks to the zine, the Ed Sheeran illustration and the Binary Ginger page. The Sheeran illustration (Fig: 4) was created by utilising a reference image (Fig: 5) to remix and create an appropriated illustration that can be edited to change the hair colour. This is a process that I have been doing for a number of years through an Instagram account called @hell0_Philip, which I use reference and appropriation to construct images to illustrate emails sent to me (Fig: 6). I had not necessarily considered the practice inherently ‘photographic’ until we started looking at remixed photography and it would not be immediately obvious that they could be considered so, compared to, for example, Cold War Steve who creates photo shopped composites of images in order to create new meaning from them (Fig: 7).

Figure 7: Cold War Steve (2019) Composite image made with Photoshop
Figure 8: 5 digit binary code to letter conversion table

The binary image is something that I was experimenting with prior to the zine making task as an extension to the Ed Rucha task. I wanted to see if there were any other ways that I could present a body of images and also include additional information about them. To do this, I utilised a 5-digit binary code system of ‘1s’ and ‘0s’ that can be converted back into the alphabet (Fig: 8), for example: 00001 would equal the letter ‘A’ in binary, which can be converted into an image sequence where each image might equal a number ‘1’ and a ‘0’ would be represented by a blank square, or coloured one. For my experiment, I used my blossom images from my Rucha response to spell out the word ‘Covid-19’ in binary as this was the underlying theme to that series (Fig: 9). The challenge then was to differentiate between letter s and numbers, so I created a different version of the image that used red squares to denote numbers, and black squares to denote letters (Fig: 10). I also produced a sourced image version of Rucha’s ‘Twentysix Gasoline Stations’ in binary (Fig, 11), and a less successful version where each ‘0’ was replace with a letter, however this is quite a busy and confusing layout (fig, 12). From these approaches, I created the ‘Ginger’ binary layout using sources images and a binary code that spells the word ‘ginger’ (Fig, 13).

Figure 11: Phil Hill (June, 2020) Twentysix Gasonline Stations from sources images using 5 digit binary to spell ‘Twentysix’
Figure 12: Phil Hill (June, 2020) 0s replaced with letters
Figure 13: Phil Hill (June, 2020) The word ‘Ginger’ in 5 digit binary – code shown on the left.

Ginger zine is an A5 booklet that would have a middle fold out section to feature the images of Victoria tasting ginger, which makes an interesting mini-narrative as it is folded out of the main body of the zine.

Figure 14: Phil Hill et al (June, 2020) Ginger Zine

Helvetica. 2007. [Film] Directed by Guy Hustwit. UK: Veer, Swiss Dots.

PANTONE, 2020. PANTONE 15-1020 TCX. [Online] Available at:
[Accessed 22 June 2020].