Contextual Research Surfaces and Strategies

Exhibition Preparation


In preparation for installing your work, consider the following questions:

  • What impact does your chosen space have upon your photography, and vice-versa?

I have chosen to go with online this time, as the work was being rushed to produce.

  • What is around the work that can direct or distract attention to and away from it? Could anything in that environment be used to heighten awareness of your work or emphasise the reading of it?

One of the reasons I have canceled the venue is that they have an open exhibition whereby any person can and will exhibit local image that was taken in the local area.

  • Whom will your viewers be and what does your work expect of them? Does it expect them to be literate about photography or internet literate? Does your work expect too much / too little of your audience?

My viewers will be people interested in the mix of old and new. They will be expected to have basic control of the web to visit the website. and make their way to the Landings page.

  • How long will you allow people to view your work? Is there a particular sequence in which you want the work to be experienced, or will you 'empower' the viewer by allowing them to wander freely around the space?

They will have the freedom to view as they wish.

  • How much can your viewer engage with the work directly? Can they contribute to it, or interact with it?

The viewer cannot engage in any other way apart from viewing. 


Do you value the thoughts and opinions of the viewer? If so, how would you go about collecting those?

I will have a comments section on the exhibition page on the website


Playing against a camera.


A photograph is of or about a subject but is about photography itself. And so when we think about it, everything has been done before and so it would be nearly impossible to pursue new. But think about what we can do because of what has been done before. So within my project, I will be looking at adding the old images and paintings with the new. Within my practice, I strive for new images. I have always avoided copying, but that is not to say i cant for example use a background of an old painting with one of my portraits. This would have a layered effect in that it covers not only my desire to be unique and or create new images but also allows me the space to add old techniques with new techniques, even period background with new modern props. My freedom of choice comes from being open-minded enough to look in all places for inspirations or ideas that I can mix.

I currently use a Nikon 750, my most used lenses are still Nikon 24-70 and 70-200 and the Sigma Art 50. The only responsibility I feel I have is to be open-minded enough to want to keep improving my work. I haven't arrived by any means. 




Are we participants or users? Am I? At times when I am doing my own work, I am very aware of being in control, to the extent that I am very fixed in my ideas, any collaborations would be very specific to my plans. I feel the upcoming exhibition may challenge that as I will be dealing with a curator. At times with the course, I feel I am a participant. I don't put my self forward for challenging roles or lead as I still feel intimidated by educated people. Let's face it can hardly understand what some people are saying without googling it first. So I often sit back and watch with awe how people understand what is asked of them without having to spend hours figuring it out first. I have spent some time looking at my self and reasons why I am not as confident as my work suggests. I have come to the conclusion it is primarily because I am a fraud. I take and create images not based on technical ability but on creativity and what I see, not what I know. So being put in a situation when I have to actually be accountable for what I do its terrifying as the answers often are I don't know, I just do. So things really are not what they seem! I came a cross this website to give a few tips on accepting who I am.


"if we all did the things we are capable of doing, we would literally astound ourselves."- Thomas Alva Edison



Strategies of sharing. 


  • Thinking about your own research, which is of more interest to you: the subject or your view of the subject?

  • How could you be influencing your subject and is that something to be avoided?

  • Conversely, how could your subjects be influencing you and your approach?


I guess it has to be the view of the subject. The number of times I’ve thrown away photos due to lacking a subject. I find landscapes are sometimes the most difficult to provide with a subject as they can be large, sometimes boring expanses of land. However, finding a central point to draw the viewers eye to automatically make the image stand out further. So careful position and removal of distractions are essential. One of the reasons the rule of thirds helps as it draws your eye to what you want people to focus on.


In my current project, because I have decided to not be as two dimensional, I risk drawing the eye away from the main subject by adding distraction that will help tell the story that I want to tell. So I need to be mindful of wasting the image.

Influencing the subject is exactly what I do with my photography as it is so planned. I do often when dealing with parents who want to be involved. Often I have to ask parents to step back, as I actually want that loose bit of hair down that they rushed to move off a face. The problem is they never see the image that you see in your mind when you want to create it. They may also have a differing opinion on what is the correct historical information.


Tom Hunter -Living in hell and other stories.


Tom Hunter was one of the people mentioned by Gary in the Webinar 7 June 2018 while discussing how my work can move away from being "nice" I want to have an impact. In Living Hell, Tom takes old paintings and makes new versions of the events happening in those old paintings which have inspired me further to add more context to my images which I now realise is missing, I need a topic. I will start slowly though but am aiming for FMP to have more scenes. Although the desire is there to create masterpieces, Although I believe I have the ability to imagine, plan and the skills with lighting. I know that the images I want to create are financially going to be out of my budget. I have started to exhaust parents that are willing to hire or search out costumes so I need to rethink what I am doing. Another challenge is going to be time. As people come to me from over the country we have limited weekends to use, so am I going to have to compromise on what I actually want for this module and save that for the FMP?

Tom used local headlines to retell these stories. I feel the local community would be interested but is it voyeuristic? I know people are interested in the grim daily news but should I recreate it? Living in hell discusses the intrigue that people have for the grim findings in the newspapers, he talks about often we see the start of a story and sometimes the end, but the middle is often left out and that is what Toms images give us.



CHEVALIER, T., WIGGINS, C., & HUNTER, T. (2005). Tom Hunter: living in hell and other stories. London, National Gallery.




Ed Ruscha's Records.


My initial thoughts on his work was that is was plain. I tend to go for richness and colour and so I find myself at times not giving artists the time they deserve. But when I started planning my own sessions, I realised that there was much more involved in his book and his work full stop.


In his ‘Song of Myself’, published in 1855, the American poet Walt Whitman gave our multiplicity memorable expression: ‘I am large, I contain multitudes’. By which he meant that there are so many interesting, attractive and viable versions of oneself, so many good ways one could potentially live and work. But very few of these ever get properly played out and become real in the course of the single life we have. No wonder if we’re often conscious of our unfulfilled destinies – and at times recognise with a legitimate sense of agony that we really could well have succeeded very well at doing something else.


Although he was talking about more specifically jobs, I do feel it comes under the same bracket that Ed found, he was versatile and wanted to display many versions of himself. Like Records, the music he loved and people got to know him through his taste in music.


For my retake on his project, I felt I would focus on a particular genre and also on music that other people liked. So that the finished article was about a genre and not one person. So I contacted a local scooter club to help me. I have had a good response and several people arrived to enable me to put together a book.


I used Blurb for no other reason than it was recommended by a fellow student. So finding my way around another new process was time-consuming but I was happy with the end result. I find that a good number of my hours I expected to spend on this course is actually learning new platforms and not producing images. So I need to be very disciplined to get the portfolio to where I want it to be. I will continue the project to at least thirty records and scooterists and then publish it as a book. I feel it would sell well in that group of people at their scooter runs and also at rallies. 


So far this course has really pushed me out of my comfort zone. I had mostly focused on children in the past and so having a group of men turn up and with me having to be in direct control of what I wanted took some mustering up of courage. I did it though, faked very well. Helped by the fact I did fit in, mostly my generation and with the same interests as a youngster. I still love the music though. I have been invited to their scooter rally. Although this wasn't about fitting in or being liked it certainly made for an enjoyable project with new friends made.


Kevin Hatch reports that, in a 1965 interview with John Coplans (in Artforum), Ruscha said:

”Like a coda, I have eliminated all text from my books – I want absolutely neutral material. My pictures are not that interesting, nor the subject matter. They are simply a collection of “facts”; my book is more like a collection of ready-mades’. At around the same time that Ruscha was taking delivery of his first edition of 400 identical copies, another Californian artist, John Baldessari, made a sequence of photographs: ‘The backs of all the trucks passed while driving from Los Angeles to Santa Barbara, California, Sunday 20 January 1963’. It would be another few years before this sort of art would be named. In 1967 Sol LeWitt wrote a short text, ‘Paragraphs on Conceptual Art’, which he defined thus: ‘In conceptual art, the idea or concept is the most important aspect of the work. When an artist uses a conceptual form of art, it means that all the planning and decisions are made beforehand and the execution is a perfunctory affair. The idea becomes the machine that makes A Kind of a ‘Huh?’: The Siting of Twentysix Gasoline Stations the art’. According to Ruscha, that is almost literally what had happened with Twentysix Gasoline Stations: ‘The title came before I even thought about the pictures’. The same happened in my case. I knew the title and wanted the book to be about a cult following. The title is the phrase everyone uses to keep the faith alive.

In Martin Parr & Gerry Badger‘s History of Photobooks Volume II (2006, pg 133) they note that Ruscha also said:

‘The Books have nothing to do with documentary information or photography as such, but could be regarded as small, complex paintings’. 

But with himself saying it's a kind of Huh! He appreciated that there would be many people who just didn't get what he was saying if he even knew himself when he first created it, as it took many years before it was recognised. My project is a little easier to figure out what I am saying.



DI BELLO, P., SHAMOON, Z., & WILSON, C. (2012). The Photobook: From Talbot to Ruscha and Beyond. I.B. Tauris & Company, Limited.

PARR, M., & BADGER, G. (2004). The photobook: a history. London, Phaidon.



© 2018 by Gail Timms