Tuesday, 28 December 2010

Manual Death mask installation pictures

I forgot to add these to the blog back when I got them developed. They are the analogue shots from my Installation. Even though I could clearly do better and am not well practiced at analogue photography in the dark, I do like the quality that these have. The grainy, blurry nature of them makes them look almost like film stills. I experimented with different shutter speeds for the first 4, from 1 second up to 10 or 20 seconds. I prefer the darker ones. I think they look more theatrical. I quite like the last, it's like the aftermath, after the show.

Monday, 13 December 2010

Marlene Dumas.

Lucy, 2004

Stern 2004

Here are two pictures by Marlene Dumas, she creates paintings from found objects, other art or photographs. 'Lucy' was inspired by Caravaggio's painting 'The Burial of Saint Lucy' (1608). As legend has it, Saint Lucy, the patron saint of light and seeing, was blinded before her decapitation.

I find these paintings interesting. the dead are not normally painted in this style, it is almost like a portrait. When i have finished my death mask series I would like to look into introducing painting into my practice and like the idea of using secondary sources.

I am frustrated. I am a frustrated artist?

My scanner is broken and I have several draft entries for this blog ready to go but can't scan anything. I will have to try to use a scanner at uni tomorrow.

Above is an image from a large format photography workshop I did in the summer, I still don't have the negs back from the workshop, when I do get them I will post more about it. I am still struggling to get permission to use the Universities' large format camera, however I have booked out a Mimaya medium format camera this week and will be using it on Wednesday for a little photographic mission at the seaside. I am off to beachy head to have a look around as kind of a side project on Suicide sites in the UK. I want to understand why people take their lives and why they choose these places.

So hopefully the end of this week will yield more results than the last week.

Friday, 10 December 2010

Ellen Rogers.

Ellen Rogers is a photographer based in London. I have admired her work for a while but recently saw a couple of photographs that seemed really relevant to my practice.

Ellen Rogers uses entirely analogue photographic techniques.

I like these photographs because I like the drama of them, the theatrical aspect of death.
The body is lain out, surrounded by flowers, the flowers are a symbol. They say "she is not simply sleeping".

The things I haven't told you.

A friend at school's Dad had cancer too, when he died she said 'you will know when he is dying, you will feel it'. But it came as a complete shock to me.

My Dad died on June 30th 2005, over 5 years ago. It was a Thursday.

I remember that he was in the hospital on the Monday. Possibly the Tuesday too. They then moved him to the hospice. I abused the visiting hours on Monday night at the hospital. I remember a nurse telling me I shouldn't stay, he is not going to die now. This may have helped to lead to my later confusion.
I stayed there all night, in the early hours of the morning I witnessed what someone with a lot of liquid morphine in their system is like.

I guess I now finally see that they must have known he was dying. They must have moved him to the hospice to fulfill his wishes of not dying in hospital.
I was 17. I didn't know what was going on. No one told me and my rational brain told me that a hospice is less serious than a hospital.. maybe he was getting better, surviving against all odds. I was kidding myself and I know it now.

My aunt told me that Wednesday night, she said 'I think the might die soon now' and I was thinking ...what, they say he's dying all the time. How does she know?

My Dad was becoming pretty incoherent. I didn't understand why. I was frustrated for him. He would try to tell me things but not able to speak properly. I didn't know it at the time but they had pumped a lot of drugs into him at that point. No one tells you anything when you are 17.

They asked if we wanted to have his last rights read. I said no, I was scared of how he might feel, lying there, unable to communicate correctly, seeing someone perform the last rights. It was my decision and i'll never know if i made the right one.

I stayed with him for a lot of the evening. I went to sleep on an armchair in a very 70s looking room next to his bedroom. At 3am I was woken, possibly by a cousin. I'm not sure.

That was when I had to go and say goodbye.
Part of me suspects he was already dead at that moment.
But I said goodbye. I love you.

The hospice asked if I wanted councilling. I said no. I would be fine. I think i had some councilling at college in the end but it's hard to remember because everything went downhill at college pretty soon after that.

At 9am Thursday morning I went in and quit my part time job.

The next couple of weeks I don't remember much.

I went to see the body. Lain out in a coffin in a semi darkened room. Theatrical. It was like a library. You couldn't speak. My mum went with me. I don't think my brother wanted to come. I didn't know if I wanted to go and I still don't know to this day whether it was good for me to go or not.

I was told by people that a person who dies with an illness like cancer looks better when they die, like when the stress leaves their face, the skin looks better. Or something. Whatever.

From what I saw people just don't look the same when they're dead. He looked like he did when alive, just way too still.

I didn't cry then.

The funeral was a strange one. He was cremated and then later the ashes were buried.
At the funeral they played Moth by Jethro Tull. Lots of people cried. I didn't cry. I got a picture of him and put it at the front.

Lots of people asked me if I wanted to say something at the funeral, they asked my brother too. I said no. What could i possibly come up with that would sum up his life?
I'm pretty sure some of my cousins spoke and the vicar talked about what a wonderful person he was, but i don't think it counts because you don't speak ill of the dead and i'm pretty sure they say that everyone is nice at their funeral.

The actual burial of the ashes was a while later i seem to remember. We had to wait for a vicar that my Dad had specified to get back from a trip to Africa.
He was a nice vicar.

My dad is buried at a little churchyard in a village where he grew up. The twelfth century church sits on the edge of a woods where he used to take us to walk. All i remember at the burial is that my granddad put the first dirt on the pot to fill in the hole. He is quite old and not very mobile and it made me sad to think of a child dying before a parent.

We scratched his name into the wall by his grave so we didn't forget where it was.

He didn't have a gravestone for a few years. I think he got one about 2 years ago. Me and my brother couldn't afford to get him one. In the end the family got together and bought him one. He had 3 brothers and 2 sisters.

I saw the grave for the first time this summer.

The churchyard where he is buried is a bit out of the way for someone who doesn't drive. I guess people offered to drive me a few times but I didn't want to be there with other people. I was afraid that at some point I would cry.

I don't know what I expected when I saw the grave stone? Some kind of epiphany? All of my questions about death to have been answered? In truth I just looked at it for a while whilst the people with me stood back and let me have space. Then I left. Maybe it would have been different to be there alone.

Nowadays I am used to him not being here. I hope though that one day i'll stop having dreams where there's a chance I can save him but am too late.

Thursday, 25 November 2010

Should really do some more landscape photography soon, I miss the solitude and the calming effect.

This photo is by Rodric Breeze, it was on the BBC news website today and was taken in Yorkshire. I miss Yorkshire and the trips to York I used to take when I was 15/16.

Faliures and experimentations

So i tried a new technique yesterday, a Gum Arabic transfer technique. I had tried it previously at a workshop I was helping out at.

Previously I had used a photocopy of a book cover and transferred that on to paper.

This time I used a photocopy of a photograph I had taken, however it completely failed, you can just barely see what I was trying to transfer.

I think the mistake I made was using a low contrast image. The images I had chosen were meant to be low contrast as that adds to their atmosphere. Jeff (print technician) made the point though, that when transferred, they will still have an unusual quality to them, so i can use high contrast images, then when they are transferred they will take on a new, equally creepy quality.

So I am now scanning my images and editing them in Photoshop, ready for another try.

Monday, 22 November 2010

Just another artist, trying to find the meaning of life..

Well I got my feedback from university and am feeling okay about it. This term has been very up and down so it's good all factors taken into account and I think that so far I have made some confident pieces of work and have a lot of directions to advance in.

I am going to note down here the key points in my feedback, so that I can refer back to them when needed.

1. I need to do more research, I need to write about my influences.
2. I need to do more reading, the texts for visual culture should be helpful for this, I would also like to read more English Literature and more texts relating to my practice.
3. I need to stop second guessing myself. I need to stop over thinking things.
4. Use this blog more.

Thursday, 18 November 2010


I found this video really interesting, It's a short documentry, made by Vice Magazine about Aokigahara forest in Japan, which is a popular destination for suicide attempts.

It really makes you contemplate not only why people commit suicide but why do people choose the same place that so many others have chosen before them? Is it a final attempt to connect with society?

In the video the most interesting things he says are that people kill themselves because they can't adapt to society or feel they can't. He also says that the way we live in society today has become more complicated, face to face communication used to be vital but now we can live our lives being online all day. However the thuth of the matter is; we still need to see each others' faces, read their expressions, hear their voices, to co-exist.

What i also find interesting, is that people supposedly kill themselves because they feel they are outcasts, yet even in death we treat them as outcasts. In history they have been buried differently, away from the rest of society. Here in Aokigahara they lay in the woods for months (the woods are only swept for bodies once a year), sometimes they might never be discovered. It is a very different death.

Monday, 15 November 2010


I did a little photojournalism on Wednesday last week. I went to the protest against the rise in tuition fees. I was only at the peaceful part, not at the Millbank centre, however I still like the shots I got on the day.

It's very different being in a protest and walking than seeing it on the news. I didn't even realise how big the protest was until I saw it afterwards.

A few nature shots..

I have always been interested in nature, flora that is. Not so interested in animals. But the plant world, the way that nature seems to slowly and silently grow around us and is so unbelievably beautiful.

Ever since I moved to Hampshire I have noticed the differences with the nature here and the nature of where I am from, the Fenland. We have smaller trees there, less mushrooms, no ferns. Everything is flat. I'm fond of that, because it's familiar. I know it well.

Everything down here seems so big and vibrant, not spindly little hedgerows or trees standing alone in fields and wastelands. Everything here is so.. proud.

Anyway, here are a few shots from Micheldever woods, which is a local woodland I have wanted to see ever since I moved here. It's definitely mushroom season.

I liked how these came out. I used my Yashica FX-3 which is my favourite SLR, of the 5 or so I own. It was the cheapest too and is starting to fall apart. But it takes beautiful shots, with amazing radial blur.

Saturday, 13 November 2010


The video I tried to take of this didn't really work. I need to learn to use video better. I think I may have a small amount of usable footage but not much.

These are the digital pictures of the work, they were challenging for me to take, only because I am not used to taking pictures in the dark, so I was quite experimental with the settings I used etc.

The first picture shows how the installation looks in the light and the second shows it with some light, the 3rd and 4th pictures show it in complete darkness.

I am still waiting for manual pictures, no idea how they will come out.

I plan to do further research into death masks and will be visiting London later this week to go and see a famous one.

I am really interested in the idea of remembering someone, perhaps we do not make death masks now because we have photographs as a way to remember people, in a way death masks were not so strange.

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Been very busy, really getting into my work now. Sadly we have a week off coming up next week, right when i was getting going and producing a lot of work.

I am going to Manchester in my week off to see a show by the illustrator of 'The Moomins' and to see a show that one of my lecturers is in. Other than that i don't know what i'll do.

I have been working on making 'death masks'. I plan to do a more thorough post about them soon when i have set up an installation, but for now here are some quick phone snaps of where I am at with the work.

First wax face attempt.

I am currently preparing to make a rubber mould so that i can produce several of the wax faces.

Another process I had the chance to work with is Gum Arabic transfer. I had a quick go with a photocopy from the cover of a library book but will be learning the process properly with the help from the print technician in a couple of weeks time.
I hope to make some ghostly gravestone images using the process.

Saturday, 30 October 2010

I haven't posted in a while because I haven't really been doing a lot. Went through a bit of a transitional point in life in the last couple of weeks and had to deal with some things, kind of meant I didn't feel like doing anything artistic. I was busy sorting out my life.

However, today is a new day. Here are a couple of pictures of my studio. As you can see I have a few bits and bobs on the wall.
I have been reading "The English way of death" by Julian Litten, which has been giving me some ideas of where to take the project.
I have also been reading some texts on the nature of photography for our print seminars. I have been really lucky lately in that the last two seminars have been on photography.

My plan for next week is to make a death mask. Death masks were mentioned in our Visual culture lecture last week and in The English way of Death and the print lecture text. It's a sign.

I know i'm not dead but i can play dead. A death mask is a wax or plaster cast made of a person’s face following death. I will write more about them when I have made one.

Also noticing that the campus / university is really beautiful at this time of year. Gold and green and covered in leaves. Makes me want to go there.

Saturday, 9 October 2010

Graves, Royston

Graves, Royston, originally uploaded by Laura E Gardner.

Finally developed a few more of the grave pictures. I took this one in Royston. I liked these ones, they were kind of dark and mysterious. Black and white definitely can change the mood and tone of a picture completely.

I'm going to be mostly taking pictures in black and white this semester as i have access to the dark room. I also want to fully master black and white film. I have some cool ideas for techniques i want to try out in the darkroom over the coming months.

Friday, 1 October 2010

Platinum and Palladium printing

On Wednesday I took a workshop, near Cambridge, in Platinum and Palladium printing.
It was really informative and some of the techniques shown such as digital negative making are also used in other types of Alternative printing processes, which is a useful crossover.

I chose negatives that I am already using for my project, so that I could see the difference with them printed differently.

I really like the effects of platinum printing, my final images were so clear and beautiful and platinum prints have a great tonal range.

I definitely think that this series looks better as a platinum print series. The images look more cold, melancholy and lonely.

I am planning to look into other alternative printing processes too, I will look at cyanotypes next, just need to gather a few things.

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

But I want to do everything..

The problem with me is that I want to do everything. I've been thinking about it more and more.
I was impressed with myself when I managed to focus on one medium, mostly. Photography is what I want to do. Knowing that doesn't help though. There are hundreds of different cameras, hundreds of different photographic practices and many kinds of film. How do I narrow down what I do?
Then there are themes, I stick to a theme for a while, evolve it and then start something completely different.

I have no focus.

other people seem to have work that leads from one theme to another, flowing naturally, with perfect progression. Their work recognisable due to having their own style. Often they use the same medium and the same techniques.

I don't want to limit myself, but maybe in order to control my concepts, I need to stick to one format and one camera and truely master that before exploring other options.

I think when uni starts up I will spend some time working in black and white 35mm, on one camera and try to fully master that so that the work becomes entirely about the concept, not the format.

In other news though, tomorrow I am doing a workshop in Platinum and Palladium printing. So that will be an interesting technique to master, even if I am without focus.

Thursday, 23 September 2010


I found these great youtube videos which really fascinate my curiosity regarding decay. It seems really final, the way when something dies, it rots and ends up folding in on itself.

Theres been this dead hedgehog on my way to work for the last couple of weeks, I saw it whole, then rotting, then maggoty, then finally when i walked past a couple of days ago it had almost completely disappeared. It was just a stain on the ground. How heartbreaking is that? We all have so little time.

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Short series

Despite being advised by a friend not to continue with this series after the first photo, i did. It is a short series which really comments on the cycle of life, only choosing to photograph animals rather than humans because humans hide their dead so well.

What i was trying to communicate here was that death is a part of life and is always around us. When we start to look we can see it everywhere.

I am not particularly saddened by the death of animals, but human death i find disturbing. I have seen a dead human body once only and it did not look natural, like these animal deaths do.

I plan to advance this by looking more closely at decay.

Friday, 10 September 2010

Sally Mann & Wolfgang Tillmans

Beware, the second image in this post may make you feel uncomfortable.

Today I went to see two photographic exhibitions. I think I'm starting to give up pretending to care about other forms of art. Photographs are it, they're the one, they record every detail. They keep this moment and the nostalgic person in me treasures them. I think that part of having a bad memory is trying to make sure you never forget anything. And maybe part of feeling awkward in life is wanting to remember every single perfect moment.

I went to see an exhibition by Sally Mann (The photographer's gallery - Until September 19th), a photographer who I have liked since college, although i only recently discovered the techniques she uses and the methods possible to achieve so much clarity and detail.

I really like the way she captures moments of her children interacting with nature, doing what they wanted to do naturally, without having reached the moments in childhood where you begin to feel self conscious or worry about what you should or shouldn't do.

I loved this picture in particular, the way her daughter seems so oblivious to the camera and so peaceful in the open air. The focus is on the rocks, I somehow find photos more interesting when the focus is not in the obvious place.

I also feel that the fact that all of the photographs are in black and white makes them seem more timeless and altogether more about the moment, not the setting.

The exhibition was split into three parts; Family, Land and What Remains.

I found the 'What remains' part of the exhibition to be really unsettling. I read the warning before i entered the room, it was a theme i was very interested in. But still, seeing that level of detail in pictures of the human body decaying... for someone who fears death, I was a bit taken aback. And yet if the opportunity came up, I would take those photographs.

The photographs were of course both beautiful and timeless, the bodies looked as if they were trapped within different stages of decay. I sometimes think that humans are so afraid of death, we act like it's not going to happen, we say 'live for now' but are too afraid to actually do it. We bury our dead, we don't leave them to decay like this and therefore don't really see this, maybe this doesn't help us to accept that this is what will happen to us.

Next I went to see Wolfgang Tillmans (Serpentine Gallery - Until September 19th)

I wasn't sure what to expect for this one, and at first I wasn't impressed, all of the photographs were good, some were exceptional, but it seemed like there was no theme, they were like a mish-mash of snapshots. A picture of a runner next to a picture of boxes of eggs, an abstract photo next to a picture of the back of someones head.

There were a couple of things that ran through the exhibition though, a good eye for colour and what seemed like a fascination with light.

My favourite pictures were these:

They had that mystical feeling, that quality that you get from some art, the feeling when you don't know how it was done.

I went away thinking they looked like Cy Twomblys, if he were a photographer. I also thought they looked a bit like blood in water.

Altogether i thought both exhibitions were good and they gave me inspiration and ideas for my own artistic practice.

Edit: Decided this was too wordy so took out the press releases.

(All photographs are from the exhibition guides for the shows.)

Monday, 6 September 2010

Only one image

I took this a couple of weeks ago, It's the only grave image that I've taken that is personal to me.

I think this may just be one image that says everything to me and yet nothing to someone who has no explanation of it. Is it still art? I don't know if it matters when the lines between art and life blur. I almost feel that to say this was art would be to cheapen it.

I get a little heart tug, a strange feeling in my stomach, every time I look at this. At the same time I want to be strong and unfeeling as i am perceived to be and maybe as I am in many ways. However this may be the one thing that makes me have a reaction. One I don't want and feel guilty for not wanting.

Death is one of the only constants in life and yet it is one of the hardest consequences of life to accept, it is all around us and yet we are desensitized to it.

I don't know where i will go from here. Maybe I will avoid this photo for months, push it to the back of my mind and yet search for an answer of where i can go with this next. Maybe i will take the opposite route and stick it somewhere i can see it every day and torture myself with it, see if I can figure it out that way.

Friday, 20 August 2010

Here are a couple of images that i have taken this summer that i like. I will add them to my sketchbook although i'm not really sure where I'm going with it all. I think I know why I'm doing this, photographing graves. I was doing it last year and I wasn't ready to think about it. Now I feel like I should be ready but I'm still not ready to talk about it. i don't know if I ever will be, this is my therepy.

But what am i going to do with it? Just keep photographing graves obsessively?

I thought that seeing his grave would cure me, but it didn't. I still can't really talk about it.

Friday, 13 August 2010

What is this????

A NEW instant camera from Polaroid??


Someone decided they made a bad decision?

So now we have Polaroid in competition with The Impossible Project? Hmm very interesting. And then there's the fuji instant camera. To be honest, this new polaroid camera looks a lot like a rip off of the fujifilm one.

I kind of want one, only because polaroids film has a lot better, more stable chemistry than The Impossible project. I don't think i'll be buying one just yet though. I just bought an instant fujifilm back for my Diana F+ so I can't justify more instant film purchases and I also don't trust Polaroid not to discontinue it. It may be too little too late.

It's an interesting development though. Clearly instant film is NOT DEAD!

Thursday, 12 August 2010

A few more sketchbook pages. :)