Documentary Hangout – 21 November 2019

Attending: Bob, Steve, Jack and myself. Unfortunately Anna wasn’t able to make it this time.

Steve, Jack and myself had some WIPs to share for critique. Both Steve and Jack are on A1. Steve showed us two sets of images: one in B&W and another version in colour – all quite powerful. He had photographed two artists in his local community. When I initially viewed his images yesterday (without any backstory) I thought he had photographed various activities at his local recreational centre. There was painting, dancing, what looked like a keep-fit class and an image of two dress dummies with clothes hanging in the background – sewing classes perhaps? He explained that they were images he had taken at two different locations and involved two artists only – a painter and a dancer. What I initially thought was a keep fit class was probably a dance class warming up – oops my bad! We all liked his B&W version of the images more than the colour. Perhaps this emphasized the lines and form more. We all had a bit of a problem with the image of the dress dummies as that didn’t fit within the set and suggested that he try and find another detail type shot. Bob mentioned that the aspect of movement was tying the images together so it might just be a question of reordering to get the flow of the narrative right.

Poor Jack was having tough time getting his mike to work properly so popped in and out of the hangout trying out different browsers until he got one to work properly. His system was causing echoes from all of us while we were talking and had us in fits of laughter as we tried to talk to block out our own echoes.

My work was up next while Jack was dealing with his mike. I had presented some initial work (see this posting) and I know I didn’t really explain myself very well what with the echo distractions and also due to the fact that I’m not quite sure where I’m going with the work yet myself. Bob raised the question about the First Nations set photos  – were they equal parts as they looked as if they were part of the scene. I explained that I did want the First Nations to look as if they were part of the scene as I thought it important to try and get the right proportions to the buildings. Jack suggested that he would like to see a figure in a window looking out maybe. On the whole the set with the people were more powerful. It was suggested that I try and find photos of the First Nations in Western clothing but I’m really not so sure about this as that might remove an aspect of their identity … something to think about anyway. Bob suggested trying an overlay of the people on the buildings and making them much bigger. I’m really not sure about this, but will give it a go and see what that looks like. Steven stated that the evidence of colonialism is coming through and I just need to fine tune the image a bit more. I really do want to concentrate the series on the fact relating to the historical (Western) buildings built on unceded First Nations territory. I just made a bit of a hash of it when I tried to explain it to the group. I’ll work on this a little more and then run it by the ROW hangout early next month. I did have a couple of thoughts that I could try as well – going B&W and also combining the symbols and First Nations images. Back to the drawing board!

Jack’s WIP was up next. He had photographed a Remembrance Day parade and he had some really beautiful images. My favourite was an image of a tree that was wrapped with crocheted poppies with bystanders in the background. He really captured the seriousness of the moment as well as the hope for the future on the faces of his subjects and he explained that he might have another project looming from this after speaking to an elderly lady who he had photographed. Jack was thinking about ordering the images as “poppy sellers” followed by “poppy wearers” but Bob suggested another order that integrated the parade with the people watching which might make more of a narrative.

I’ll set up another hangout in a month’s time. Hopefully we can squeeze something in before Christmas, otherwise we will stand over till January.

Some more experimenting

So having found a severe shortage of archival images of the historical buildings that I want to photograph, I’m working on a couple of the suggestions made in a recent ROW hangout whereby I’m trying to incorporate some aspects of the unceded territory of the Secwepemc People into my work. Some quotes below will help establish some context and which I will later incorporate into my assignment. Just placing them here for easy reference later. I have been incredibly frustrated though, with the lack of website maintenance on most of the websites that I have researched regarding background/historical or even current information on the Secwepemc Nation. Just when Google throws up a link that looks like it has what I’m looking for it turns out to be a 404. Arghhh!

Historical Background
  • British Columbia is unique in Canada in that most of the province (an area that’s about *95 per cent of the land base, or nearly 900,000 square kilometres) is unceded, non-surrendered First Nation territories.

(Indigenous Corporate Training Inc., 2014)

  • That unique status – a province mostly built on territories that were never ceded through treaty, war or surrender by the original inhabitants – goes back more than 150 years. As a result, uncertainty has dogged economic development in the province, while the courts have been increasingly firm that the Crown in B.C. does not have clear title to the land and its resources.In the rush to establish the colony of British Columbia, governor James Douglas skipped over the stage of negotiating treaties. In 1859, he issued a proclamation that declared all the lands and resources in British Columbia belong to the Crown. At that time, the colony had about 1,000 Europeans and an estimated 30,000 Indigenous people.

(Hunter, 2017)

  • “A territorial or land acknowledgement is an act of reconciliation that involves making a statement recognizing the traditional territory of the Indigenous people who called the land home before the arrival of settlers, and in many cases still do call it home.”

(Chapman, 2018)

  • School districts, unions, universities, municipalities all take time at the beginning of meetings or gatherings to acknowledge the traditional territory of the local nations where the meeting is taking place. Regardless of whether or not Indigenous Peoples are attending the event, this acknowledgement is important for reconciliation and reframing how we think about land as Canada tries to repair the damage of our colonial past.”

(Chapman, 2018)

  • We acknowledge and give honour to the Secwepemc — the ancestral peoples who have lived here for thousands of years — upon whose traditional and unceded land Thompson Rivers University is located. The Secwepemc maintain a spiritual and practical relationship to the land, water, air, animals, plants and all things needed for life on Mother Earth. It is with that in mind that we owe this debt of gratitude.

(Indigenous TRU | Thompson Rivers University, s.d.)

  • The Board of Education acknowledges that it is situated on the traditional territory of the Secwepemc people.

(School District 83)

So I’ve been working on two alternative options simultaneously, and I like certain aspects of both on certain photos. I don’t think I can combine the alternatives in one set though. (Please click on images to enlarge).

Fig 1 and 2 – I actually like both versions. I have tried to size the people in the images proportionally. I like the way I have managed to incorporate the Raven symbol into the tree in Fig 2. I know the way of viewing the images will probably be different in both sets. The viewer will have to search a bit for the symbols in the right hand set of images and I know non-Canadians/Americans might have some problem knowing what to look for so those images would definitely need some type of caption that relates to the symbol. (Thought: Raven = symbol of knowledge – might be better to use a school. Planning on shooting one during my next photoshoot).

I’m not sure about Fig 3 and 4. While I used the door of the house as a guide to resize the group of Interior Chiefs, the group still looks out of proportion and just plain uncomfortable – not sure why. The owl in Fig 4 is a little difficult to discern properly even though the red colour does pop out at one. The First Nations art work is mainly done in red, black and white so I don’t want to lose that authenticity. Maybe I should look at another bird or animal for this image?

I think Fig 5 is one of my favourites so far. The Chief looks like a ghostly character and reminds me a little of Shimon Attie’s Writing on the Wall project. I’m trying to use the symbols in a natural setting as far as possible. I haven’t managed to find the symbolic meaning of the crow in the local lore yet, so I may end up substituting it for another.

Although I resized the woman according to the door size, I’m not sure if she is large enough. It was rather fortuitous that the house has this frame situated next to it that I could use to situate the women in. I think it works … I do rather like the beaver image on the side of the house. I had to skew it slightly to maintain the same perspective as the windows.

Another of my favourite sets so far. I think the Siwash woman and child going up the hill to the little church integrate well. I have tried to place the Eagle symbol over the centre of the church roof to connote the prayers going up to the Creator and I think this translates well. As I mentioned before, all the right hand images will depend heavily on a relay text.

A couple of thoughts have just occurred to me. What will the set of images look like in B&W? How would a combination of the people and symbols work?

I will get some feedback on the images from the Documentary hangout later today.



Board in brief – School District No. 83 (North Okanagan-Shuswap) (s.d.) At: (Accessed  21/11/2019).

Chapman, D. (2018) June 2018: Acknowledging an unceded territory – R.J. Haney Heritage Museum. At: (Accessed  21/11/2019).

Hunter, J. (2017) ‘Horgan’s acknowledgment of unceded Indigenous territory a milestone for B.C.’ 22/10/2017 At: (Accessed  21/11/2019).

Indigenous Corporate Training Inc. (2014) Why you should avoid using “Crown Lands” in First Nation consultation. At: (Accessed  21/11/2019).

Indigenous TRU | Thompson Rivers University (s.d.) At: (Accessed  21/11/2019).

Tedx Talk – John Paul Caponigro

A while ago, fellow student Mark in New Zealand passed along a link to various photographers’ Tedx Talks. I happened to see one by John Paul Caponigro on creativity (much needed component in my life) so I decided to watch it. My notes are in the gallery below.



TEDxDirigo – John Paul Caponigro – YOU’RE A LOT MORE CREATIVE THAN YOU THINK YOU ARE (s.d.) At: (Accessed  11/11/2019).

Tutor Led Hangout (Andrea Norrington) – Learning Logs

Seventeen students joined tutor, Andrea Norrington for the first tutor let Zoom hangout this morning (my time). We were quite an eclectic bunch – students from France, Denmark, South Africa, Germany, Jersey, Switzerland, Canada, New Zealand and the UK.

The majority of the students were on level 1 doing EYV and I was so happy for those students that there is this type of engagement at last from OCA’s side. I can so remember feeling totally lost and rather bewildered when I started out. The rest of us were on level 2 and a couple were starting out on level 3.

Andrea gave a very good presentation on what exactly a learning log should be, stressing that the learning log portion is basically everything that is not coursework or assignments. She had a great quote “Learning happens in the spaces inbetween”. And this is something I should remember and reflect on frequently as I’m apt to forget about that.

She gave good examples of the type of postings that should appear in a learning log:

  • own independent research
  • readings
  • topical news stories that might have caught our attention and which may be relevant to subject matter
  • exhibition write ups
  • reflections on podcasts
  • ideas for future projects (I have a book where I scribble these down, but will transfer some of those ideas via photos to my blog)
  • side projects
  • plans for pacing our studies – keeping track of time
  • reflections on progress via forum or other hangouts
  • a place to vent any frustration and celebrate success

The best ways of doing this type of reflection is to:

  • write posts to document WIPs
  • set a regular schedule to “report in”. This will help track progress in the course too
  • show the WIPs
  • In the assignment write up we can link back to these notes
  • Methods for planning include:
    • flip chart/post it notes
    • chalkboards/white boards
    • note books
    • sketchbooks
    • exhibition journals
    • record cards -> especially helpful with essay writing
    • books (that we create) -> photos
    • NB: not necessary to rewrite for the learning log, can just upload photos of pages etc.
  • Written notes/sketches for longer projects/assignments (see David Hurn’s On being a Photographer – on using notebooks & reviewing contact sheets
  • Examples shown of photographers who use these methods: Cindy Sherman (sketches scenes and marks up contact sheets). I saw this at the Cindy Sherman exhibition last month, and Tony Ray-Jones (lists and contact sheets)
  • Not necessary to have lengthy texts. OK to use:
    • Bullet points
    • Abbreviations & symbols
    • Think about brevity – just get the main thoughts down

Andrea also gave some insight as to what the assessors are looking for (with a few highlighted examples). It comes down to a process of self-questioning and engagement with the work we read about/do. Something I need to do more, I know.

She also advised to keep an open post to use for bibliography to keep a record of our references and research sources. I usually have a Word document open in the background as I work and use Zotero to reference any articles/illustrations and research material applicable to that particular post I’m working on. I’m not sure if she meant a global document though – will check with her when I have my next hangout.

A good method of summarising an article we have researched is the “30 second rule” whereby you take 30 seconds to summarise the most important points of what you have just read – that can also form part of the learning log. This is especially applicable when doing essays.

  • Document
  • Plan
  • Review
  • Reflect

And finally – remember to back up all work.

Thank you Andrea! This session was extremely helpful.

Exercise: Hasan and Husain Essop

The Brief

View the video on Hasan and Husain Essop at the V&A exhibition Figures and Fictions and write a short reflective commentary in your learning log or blog.

(Open College of the Arts, 2014: 76)

So this is where I find the documentary lines becoming quite blurred. The underlying premises of documentary photography is to make the viewer an eyewitness to an event, and furthermore to inform or educate said viewer. Although John Grierson in Franklin, 2016:6 states that documentary is ‘a creative treatment of reality’ just how far can one really stretch the limits? David Bate states “A spectator can participate by seeing ‘with their own eyes’ what the photographer has seen” (Bate, 2009:59) and this further implies a trust agreement between photographer and spectator.

Although the Essop brothers photograph conflicting aspects of their identity as Muslims and their place in a Western society, notwithstanding that their work is highly creative, I would really not go so far as to classify their work as documentary for a few reasons. Firstly they as photographers have not “seen” the event. They have collectively imagined it: “we are creating works in our mind and conversing and debating about it until we both have an agreement” (Video: Figures & Fictions: Hasan and Husein Essop – Victoria and Albert Museum, s.d.). Secondly, the work consists of digitally stitching many photographs of themselves acting out a part together to create one image. They photograph themselves as means of working around certain religious restrictions. This method is explained in this posting.

“…in Islam that it’s not very permissible to put up pictures of people on your wall”.

(Victoria and Albert Museum, s.d.)

Their later work has a rather chilling message as can be seen in this video.  Although they state that they are just trying to show the world not to believe everything that is seen in the media, I do think the topics they have chosen to represent are in extremely poor taste and certain images are quite offensive and I feel they make a mockery of people’s sensibilities, especially if they are putting this series out for “educational purposes”.

So to sum up, I’d regard this type of photography more as performative art photography, or even digital art photography.


Bate, D. (2009) Photography The Key Concepts. London: Bloomsbury.

Constructed perspectives with Hasan & Husain Essop – YouTube (2017) At: (Accessed  18/11/2019).

Franklin, S. (2016) The Documentary Impulse. London: Phaidon Press Limited.

Hawkins, L. (s.d.) How To Create Two of the Same Person in One Photograph Using Photoshop. At: (Accessed  18/11/2019).

Open College of the Arts (2014) Photography 2: Documentary-Fact and Fiction (Course Manual). Barnsley: Open College of the Arts.

Video: Figures & Fictions: Hasan and Husein Essop – Victoria and Albert Museum (s.d.) Directed by Urdaneta, F. At: (Accessed  18/11/2019).



Figure 1. Hasan and Husain Essop. (2009) Fast Twins. At: (Accessed on 18 November 2019)

Figure 2. Hasan and Husain Essop. (2009) Blessing Meat. At: (Accessed on 18 November 2019)

Exercise: Tom Hunter

Tom Hunter’s work explores themes that are relevant to his local neighbourhood. Living in Ellington Road in a squat in Hackney he produced The Ghetto in a response to a news article which described the area as crime-ridden and derelict. The photographs featured his friends and neighbours and was an attempt to save the community from developers.

At college Hunter was heavily influenced by Vermeer’s work and he studied his work in depth. Using a 5 x 4 camera he became totally fascinated by the colour and depth of light that was revealed in these transparencies. While still living in the squat at Ellington Road, Hunter and all his neighbours received eviction notices. The notices were addressed to “Persons Unknown” and Hunter made a series of staged photographs influenced heavily by the work of Vermeer. His intention was to draw attention to this group of people (himself included) who were living in the squats, that they be accorded dignity and acknowledged that they too had voices to be heard. His most well known photograph in this series, Woman Reading a Possession Order which won the John Kobal photographic award in 1998, was inspired by Vermeer’s Girl reading a letter at an open window. Interestingly, there has always been some speculation as to who or what the letter in the painting contained, but recently it has been discovered that the figure of Cupid in Vermeer’s painting was overpainted by a subsequent owner and restorers have now revealed about half of Cupid’s figure which is painted on the wall above the girl. Vermeer used the Cupid motif in a few of his paintings, so a viewer’s interpretation now, upon seeing the representation of love in the original oil painting will be definitely slanted towards the letter being a love letter.

In Hunter’s representation, the woman is also standing in front of a window, the light streaming in to highlight her features. Her pose is the same as Vermeer’s girl, but instead of a spilled basket of fruit on the table as in the original, we see a baby sprawled out looking at its mother. Hunter uses art historical references to lend gravity to his work and uses elements of fiction in his work. Sometimes he just poses his subjects, other times he will stage the whole scene, arguing “that his fictions aren’t necessarily less truthful than straight documentary” (Smyth, 2012).

His Living in Hell and Other Stories series is a recreation of real-life stories/tragedies that happened, pulling captions for the images from local newspaper headlines, allowing the viewer to recreate the historical narrative for himself. Apart from the Dutch masters, he also draws much inspiration from the pre-Raphaelite painters who also passed social commentary in their works of art. Even though his work is staged in this series, it is made on location so it retains a certain degree of veracity.

I have always been a fan of Tom Hunter’s work since first coming across it in the C&N module. The way he draws inspiration from Renaissance painters is quire remarkable and the the way he makes use of the symbolism in art history and blends it with today’s social commentary is brilliant.



Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister: Vermeer (2019) At: (Accessed  18/11/2019).

Photographer Spotlight: Tom Hunter (s.d.) At: (Accessed  18/11/2019).

Smyth, D. (2012) Think Global, Act Local | Tom Hunter. At: (Accessed  16/11/2019).

The Essay – Under the Influence – Tom Hunter – BBC Sounds (2011) Directed by May, J. 31/03/2011. 24 min 4 secs. At: (Accessed  18/11/2019).

Suggested viewing/reading

During my A2 feedback my tutor suggested that I take a look at three of her Digital Image and Culture students’ work on combining images and how they presented them.

The first suggested was Sarah-Jane’s A2 – available here: SJ has presented her archive as a set of projections that is viewed over three screens. She has combined still images, moving images, collages and colour screens and of course has incorporated music into her work.  The sound track actually reminded me of Carol Sawyer’s The Rehearsal in character, tone and pacing. SJ’s work is sinister and chilling and extremely well executed. I definitely don’t have those kind of video editing skills (in fact I have zero in that department), but this is not quite what I had in mind for my A3.

The second suggested was Georgina’s A2 – available here:  Georgina’s work resonated with me as this was something along the lines that I was thinking of doing. She has taken a series of images of cooling towers at various locations and then erases the cooling towers from the landscape. She then presented this in a slideshow, showing the landscape first with the cooling towers, then without. She also presented this in a book format. This is more in line with what I was envisioning myself, the only difference being that I would be adding to the landscape instead of removing something.

The final suggestion was Nuala’s A2 – available here: Nuala, using various researched materials, found photographs, architectural drawings and collages, created a visual history of her great grandmother who was a dressmaker. She states that she has no photographs of her great grandmother and she has done a wonderful job pulling different resources together to build this “image” of her great grandmother. She presented this as an online flipbook. I’ll definitely bear this work in mind going forward, but don’t think I will be basing my A3 on any of the methods here.



Field, SJ (2019) A2: Polar Inertia; the depletion of time, the negation of space – Assessment submission. Available at: (Accessed 15 November, 2019)

Stewart, G (2017) Assignment Two: The Archive. Available at: (Accessed 15 November, 2019)

Mahon, N (2019) Assignment Two: The Archive | Letitia, The Dressmaker’s Story. Available at: (Accessed 15 November, 2019)