DREAMS AND REALITIES – The final countdown

The Final Countdown. (2.4)

Last week, we held a ‘show and tell’ and class critique of our work for our Dreams and Realities assignment. It was fascinating to see how differently we have all interpreted this project. We have all developed and shown our own very distinct styles.

“Visual language is as powerful or as nuanced as verbal language,” Ria Stochel.

This project seemed to gain a life of it’s own, I found myself looking at the themes of becoming or being invisible, missing or hidden under the surface, and suddenly, I had so much to say.  On the whole, I was both flattered and encouraged by the comments from classmates and my tutor.  In my final post as a Photography student (for now, anyway.) I will attempt to evaluate what I was hoping to say with my images, and also what was discussed in class…



“Missing”    Wth this image, I wanted to portray that I was stepping out of the shadow of a person I have become. Missing from life and leaving that self behind …walking up the stairs to a better, brighter future. Every day, the stairs represent a challenge for me. An uphill struggle. They are often difficult for me physically. I make every attempt to avoid going upstairs and downstairs more than once a day (I almost never succeed with that plan!) It was commented that if I were to re-take the photo, with myself in the sitting position, and then move the colour image to one side, that it might be a better image. Art is subjective, I suppose.  Personally, I don’t really agree.  I wanted to show that I was stepping out of myself, leaving a ghost of myself behind …The old me. I wanted to show that I am ascending into a future that is brighter and better. It’s why I chose to keep the part of the image where I am stepping away in colour.  I think if I took the photo with myself to one side, it would look as though I was stepping round the occupant of the shoes, rather than being the same person.  Stepping round illness is not an option. “The only way out is through.” Robert frost

“Chanelling Frida”  By choosing to make the image a sepia tone, the image of  ‘Frida’ has a vintage quality to it, which alludes to my love of all things vintage and a little quirky. It conveys a sense of voyeurism that I enjoy in both art and photo’s. (Think Edward Hopper, Jack Vettriano and Cartier-Bresson.) I think in some sense all photographers are voyeurs… Documenting and participating in the human condition. Are you intruding on my thoughts?  Or I have invited you in?  Am I lost in thought, pain or sadness? The background is blurred and ‘muffled’ to keep the focus on me. Visually, I have taken control of the image by ‘turning down the volume’. . I think I would be tempted to keep this image very small if it were printed for that same reason. To engage you, to make you look. You have to come closer. Am I asking you to listen? To understand me, or come closer to my life? Maybe.

“Crystal ball”  For me, it was just about showing that my life has been turned upside down by invisible illness. Everything else about the image seems normal …life just carries on.

“Lost vs. Loss” . I think with this project, our images don’t need to be purely symbolic, they can be about pattern and texture. This image shows, lines across my face. Yes, my life has been fractured to some degree, but there is light shining through the cracks, which is one of the reasons I think it would best be printed on a translucent medium.

“Visible Invisible” Among the letters is hidden the word invisible, but it’s not immediately apparent, you have to look closer for it. There are layers to give an ethereal effect and the word is still visible through the layers.  The image of me is slightly faded as if I am disappearing into the background. I hope this strong yet intensely personal image makes people feel a little uncomfortable. That it raises awareness (and unltimately support) of invisible illness.

“Flower girl”  this photo came under much discussion, along with a few smiles too. I was inspired by Marcel Monreal’s wonderful work. The background of the image has grey,  hard, and unforgiving granite, and the steel of the ‘cage’ imply that I am trapped somehow.  The plants aren’t growing over me, hiding me, they are peeping through… emerging. The new growth cuts me open, and I am filled with flowers, exuberance and life. There is expectation, hope and colour. For me, as an image it works. Everyone was able to read the visual language of my image. It says all I needed to say.

My research for this project was often linked somehow, there was a thread running through it, sometimes metaphorically, and sometimes directly.  I wanted to raise awareness of invisible illnesses that affect me and so many millions.  I hope people will find my photo’s powerful, moving and humourous.  I feel as though my work may lack the fragility of Francesca Woodman, but it has some of the drama of Frida Kahlo and the humour of Rene Magritte, and Vivienne Strauss. Marcello Monreal’s stunning work inspired me to try his technique. I’d love it if this image could make people see past my illness and into the vibrance that is still there (…if you look.)  I’m sure these inspirational artists will continue to influence my work, and I hope to be able to continue going to exhibitions when I can.

So that’s it. Tomorrow is our last day. We learned new skills and made new friends. I’ve loved my time at RHACC, and have been inspired and sometimes touched by all the amazing work that has been exhibited in the foyer.  It’s wonderful to  be immersed in the talent of Richmond Art School. As for our class… .We’ve all come a long way. We are all evolving (…or perhaps I should say ‘developing’) as photographers… Wishing everyone good luck for the future. 🙂

Going forwards, I do hope to keep up with my blog, perhaps in a slightly different format. I’ll still put my photo’s up, but I think the blog will continue on as a personal journey.  Recent life events mean that things are changing in my world. I may have less time for scrapbooking and journalling, in future, so perhaps the blog will become ‘a life documented’.  A good friend of mine has been trying to get me to write a blog for years, but I always felt I had nothing to say that anyone would want to hear. Over the last year,  I have been so encouraged by all the kind things people have said about my blog.  I do hope you’ll all come with me. 😊






DREAMS AND REALITIES – Visible Invisible




RESEARCH – Assignment 2 & 3, Unit 2, Task 4 &5

(2.1,2.2, 2.3, 2.4)


Today, I am presenting my final assignment images for Dreams and Realities. I have said before that I didn’t expect this project to be quite so personal, or to mean so much to me, but in this project I’ve laid myself bare, and am presenting the truth about the way I feel about living with Invisible Illness.

My research for this project was a fairly organic process, starting with Fibromyalgia Awareness Day on May12th, I’m aware that so many other charities have their National Awareness Days, yet although there is an awareness day for FM it went largely unnoticed. I found a small piece online called “Missing Millions” about a publicity event in Morecambe, and took inspiration from it. Coupled with lots of research on artists and photographers who have their own unique voices and ways of portraying their pain. Using techniques I have learned in the last 3 terms,  I started to explore and experiment with various techniques. Some using simple methods, such as composition and some using Photo editing suites on both PC and my mobile phone.

Invisible illnesses are pertinent to me, and my own health, but I also want to be able to raise consciousness among others, with regard to these conditions.  This project seemed to gain a life of it’s own, I found myself looking at the themes of becoming or being invisible, missing or hidden under the surface, and suddenly, I had so much to say.  A few weeks ago, my tutor commented  “There’s some spectacular stuff here. This is where you live, isn’t it…?”  She’s right, but I have no choice really.  So this project has become personal. A self portrait.  I hope that with this project, I have used the visual language of photography to try and change our perception of these conditions.

To some degree, people judge you by what they can see, but FM, CFS, M.E, and many others illnesses do not leave visible scars or wounds. The wider world cannot see bones sticking out or blood pouring, so we often find we are dismissed or disbelieved. We wear ‘masks’ to hide our pain, we pretend to be fine to the wider world, yet in reality we suffer pain, exhaustion and anxiety.  Most of our scars and pain are hidden.  I wanted to be able to explore these themes with my photography.  The real truth is, we’re not okay. We are just coping as best we can. I think raising awareness is the first step to finding that help.

Feelings of anger, resentment, fear, anxiety, and loss are all real aspects of having a long term condition.  I found inspiration in the work of Frida Kahlo, Maurizio Anzeri, Rene Magritte,  Framcesca Woodman,Vivienne Strauss and Marcelo Monreal. Each of these images, for me, conveys a sense of missing, of sadness, of pain..




Finding these images took me along the path of realising what I wanted to say with my own images. On a personal level, the research has made me look into new forms of creativity, in terms of embroidery onto photographs. Something I’ll definitely carry on with after the course finishes. I’ll share some of those images soon.


Exploratory images 2.1, 2.2

Here are the original, unedited images for my Dreams and Realities assignment:




Final images. 2.3, 2.4

Channeling Frida. When I showed my images in class, there was mostly positive criticism from my classmates and tutor, but as ever, I am my own harshest critic. I posted my image of “Frida” on my blog and despite positive feedback, I was still unhappy about the stray hairs on my forehead. I did try to remove them using the rubber stamp tool in GIMP editing software, but there was too much hair for me to do it successfully, leaving the area lumpy and unnatural, and it would have ruined the image. So I settled for making the clump of mascara, and the hair across my eye disappear.  If I were to print this image, I would be inclined to use a rag paper like Hahnemuhle, ‘German etching’ because there’s a lovely soft surface texture to it. It is an archival quality paper and has a good weight to it. I think I’d probably keep the print fairly small, maybe a maximum 8″x6″ because it’s quite an intimate picture which invites the viewer in.


Missing. In class, there was some criticism about the quality of the light, but that was rather unavoidable in the confines of my tiny, dark hallway that has no natural light.  My tutor, felt this image may have had more impact if the secondary image of me walking upstairs was somehow ‘separated’ from the primary image of my shoes on the stairs.  Maybe shr’s right. It’s a subjective thing.  Personally, I am not sure, because my intention when I took the photo was that I portrayed myself walking away from the grey-ness of pain… missing out on dancing, fun, and a fulfilling life. The dream that I could step out of the shadow of the person invisible illness has made me become.  I am walking up the stairs to a brighter future, a stronger self.  I’m happy with the choice of use of colour and black and white in the image. It really does seem to represent that feeling of being somehow ‘missing’ in life. There’s a juxtaposition of sadness and loss, with the colour overlay of my walking away …walking upstairs to strength, wellness…conquering that loss.


Lost vs loss.  The  image below is my favourite 🙂 I took an shot of myself, with my hand over my mouth using my Samsung S6 phone, just  a silly selfie, but I think it works the best of all my Dreams and Realities images. The hand over my mouth represents all the things I’d like to say, but don’t. Perhaps I’m stifling sarky comments when people say “Oh, but you look really well…”  or “…Have you tried Vitamins/Turmeric/Hemp/Cabbage soup/Cannabis/Unicorn horn?” (…or some other snake oil, I could go on… 😉 ) Despite not being taken with my camera, I do think this image works.  After drawing lines over and over on the image using the (snapseed) editing tools  on my phone, I changed the colour, and contrast to make a strong, bold image that is abstract and striking.  I would like to print this image using Fujitrans Crystal Archive C-Type paper, which is a translucent display material perfect for setting into a light box.  I’ve had a lot of feedback on this image, from fellow students, friends and family. The best comment was from one of my previous tutors, who said that he hoped I would blow it up really large and hang it on the wall. 🙂 If I had a large enough space, I would print it at maybe 40″x30″, but since we live in a normal house, I think we are actually intend to print it smaller and set it into a light box to show it at it’s best. (Tripod carrier is an engineer, and is very clever at making things! Yay! :))

LOST Vs LOSS – taken on Samsung Galaxy S6

There But Not There. Next we come to the crystal ball image, which was really a bit of an in-joke. Like a magic trick, I’m there but not there….. I took the photo outside using natural light. I took two shots of the crystal ball, one with myself in the background and the other without. Using GIMP, I cut out the image of the crystal ball with me in it and laid it over the the top of the image without me in it.  I’m not very likely to print this image, but if I did, I think would use a glossy paper to compliment the shininess of the ball, and I would deliberately print the image quite small so that the viewer would have to peer into the crystal ball to see the image.


Crystal Ball f18 1/60s 45mm ISO1.6

My next submission is Visible Invisible, the title of my project on Dreams and Realities. Among the letters is hidden the word invisible, but it’s not immediately apparent, you have to look closer for it.  I often use cut out letters in my journalling, and when scrapbooking one day, I thought it could make an effective image.  I took the image using a shallow depth of field to keep the letters nice and crisp. The photo was taken using natural light, indoors.  Using GIMP, I layered the background of letters with another shot of myself, that John took in class a while ago.  I removed the contrast and colour by making the image transparent and overlaid it on top of the letters.  If I were to print it, I would use a giclee print on a matte surface because I think the texture would suit the cut out letters and the more ethereal quality of the image of me. I think a small size print would work best for this image, again because you have to draw the viewer in to look closely.

Visible Invisible
Visible Invisible f5.6 1/80s 45mm ISO250

Flower girl.  I love this image. Partly because I adore flowers, plants and gardening. Hidden inside me there is a beautiful garden. I retreat there when I need to. In a course that I am currently doing on living with long-term conditions, we meditate and use mindfulness techniques. I ‘sit’ in an inner garden and find calm and tranquility. There’s no judgement, or stuff I have to do or be, no critical internal monologue.

Completely inspired by the work of Marcelo Monreal, I used GIMP to ‘cut’ out sections of my face, and then cut and pasted in layers sections of a photo I took earlier of a beautiful clematis, in my garden, to make it looks as if the flowers were emerging from inside me.  There’s also an element of the mask we wear connected to this image. There is an inner growth and change, a flowering. I feel vibrant, bold and hopeful. Time constraints family commitments (and a lack of experience) meant that I haven’t been able to go quite as flower-y as I’d like, but I think overall,  I am happy with this image.  I would definitely want to use a photo rag paper to print this image, because of it’s velvet-y texture, which would add softness to the flowers and a 3D-ness giving the image a pictorial depth.


I think this project has a clear narrative and a theme that hopefully, engages the viewer.  I know this project has helped me explore that theme and develop personally. My photography is helping me to blossom and develop. There is a better, brighter future ahead.

That’s my lot for now. I’ve now reached the end of my course. Time for me to stretch my wings and fly… Time to get out and about in this gorgeous weather and put into practice all that I have learned.  I do want to carry on my blog, if real life doesn’t get in the way, so I hope you’ll be hearing more from me.

Thank you, readers, for all the encouragement, support, and lovely comments. X






Research and personal images – (part 7)

RESEARCH – Assignment 2 & 3, Unit 2, Task 1&2,

(1.1, 1.2, 2.1, 2.2, 2.3, 2.4)

This week has been challenging personally, for lots of reasons I can’t really go into at the moment, but it will all be okay in the end.  (I hope.)  I just have to go one step at a time. This is a new skill I’m having to learn, having always been a person who likes to fix things. Well, I suppose we all do, but if you have a long term illness and you can’t overcome it, you just have to learn to accept it. One step at a time.

Continuing on my theme of Visible Invisible, I’ve done some more research into my project


I have often joked that if you cut me in two, there would be flowers on the inside, so I was thrilled to discover the work of Brazilian, Marcelo Monreal.  Monreal’s work came about as a result of working in the garden, alongside his Mother, just before her death, when she told him, “We are made of flowers.” Monreal digitally manipulates the faces of famous people and fills the ‘cracks’ with stunning floral compilations that show the characters as full of life. Just as a flower opens and blooms, he opens his subjects up with these collages, revealing inner beauty behind their chosen appearance.  Like all the artists I’m choosing to show you today, he seeks to find what we hide. I love these vibrant explosions of flowers! I think his work will continue to influence my work, and I hope that I can attempt to capture some of this beautiful work in my own processes going forward.

” …people don’t often tell us who they really are. Instead, they keep parts of their real selves hidden. ” marcelo monreal


FRIDA KAHLO (1.1, 1.2)

The more I looked into this project, the more I have made a connection with Frida Kahlo. I’ve written before about her illness, and her life and there are so many wonderful images of Frida, with her customary floral head-dress and bold colours, but there is another side to Frida. Perhaps a side she didn’t always want the world to see, but she showed it anyway. “My painting carries with it the messages of pain.”  frida kahlo.  She showed that pain in her paintings, and I feel it whenever I see her art.. that connection to a deep pain and sadness, and a desire to fight through it and carry on with life.

I loved this image of Frida taken by Diego Riviera. Is she lost in thought, sadness or pain? The background is blurred by shallow depth of field, keeping all the focus on the sitter. The flowers in her hair seem a little wilted, unlike the usual bold headresses we are used to seeing on Frida. Her hand covers her face, is she hiding something? We touch our faces as a comfort, but I feel as though she has something she wishes to say but can’t.  I think the image in black and white works, because something of the sadness would be lost by using colour film.

flower-crown (image found on Google)
Frida Flower crown


RENE MAGRITTE (1.1, 1.2)

I like this image by Rene Magritte, because once again, you see what is there but not there. The hidden face, and the public face we show.

I believe that there is a desire in photographers to see what isn’t there.. that story …that private face, that hidden depth.  We photographers take notice. We’re aware of sensitivities and flaws, maybe even secrets, in a different way to others. We see and feel what others maybe don’t see, and we want to capture that. A bit of me wonders if that’s because we’re hiding some hidden feeling, and it feels safe from our side of the camera? …Do we want to be ‘unmasked’?

“At least it hides the face partly well, so you have the apparent face, the apple, hiding the visible but hidden, the face of the person. It’s something that happens constantly. Everything we see hides another thing, we always want to see what is hidden by what we see. There is an interest in that which is hidden and which the visible does not show us. This interest can take the form of a quite intense feeling, a sort of conflict, one might say, between the visible that is hidden and the visible that is present.[2]”

Rene Magritte




IMAGES (2.1, 2.2, 2.3, 2.4)

After an upsetting few days, and trying my hardest to deal with, and to accept what is happening around me. I  found the image above, of Frida and this excellent quote.

“I used to think I was the strangest person in the world, but then I thought there are so many people in the world. there must be someone just like me who feels bizarre and flawed in the same ways I do. I would imagine her, and imagine that she must be out there thinking of me, too.  Well, I hope that if you are out there and read this and know that, yes, it’s true I’m here, and I’m just as strange as you.”  Frida Kahlo 

It gave me a little bit of hope in a sad, dark moment, and made me smile a little.  So I decided to recreate the Frida Kahlo image myself. I took the image with a natural light source in front of me, and the room behind me in darkness. I used a shallow depth of field to blur the background, and a fairly slow shutter speed of 1/25s to get the correct exposure. I set the ISO to 800 to allow for the photo being taken indoors, (in the conservatory.. I can tell you a flower crown is quite a hot thing to wear on a hot day!) I used a remote control switch to take the image. I didn’t really think the image needed much in the way of editing, so I converted it to sepia tone, and added a small vignette, although perhaps with hindsight I could remove the stray hairs from my fringe on my forehead… (maybe I’ll come back to that…)


If you’re watching over us, Frida. I’m glad you are as strange as me 🙂

Below is my own interpretation of the Rene Magritte image. My sanctuary is my garden, and I often hide there to find peace, and distraction from pain, and sometimes the blackness of depression. Even on days when I can’t cope with gardening, (really I mostly just tidy up anyway..  lots of watering, primping and deadheading, and occasionally directing Tripod Carrier where to plant and move things!) it helps me to be in the garden. I find solace, tranquility and healing in the world outside my window. There is a sense of wellbeing and continuity in the constant growth and change in the garden…It grounds me.  I love plants, if I’m feeling shy, or lost it gives me a way to connect to people, I hide behind my knowledge of plants and flowers, finding pleasure in their Latin names, and some strange safety in the knowledge of their language. Sometimes, I’m even genuinely hidden by all the foliage and flowers!! There is a parallel here, in that I find a way to hide behind my camera, viewing the world vicariously, and sometimes not living in the moment. but taking the photo’s because I want to hold onto that moment and go back to it when I want to. ‘Captured images’ moments in time.

I have done nothing in post-editing to this image. This was meant to be just a bit of fun… an exploratory image.



With inspiration from Marcelo Monreal, and a great deal of help from my lovely Tripod Carrier, I present to you my own internal floral explosions (well, it’s quite a modest one really, but you get the idea…. 😉  )


insert image here…

Flower girl DSC00174 (2)
Flower girl f3.5 1/160s 9.73mm ISO100


Finally, to create the images below, I took a shot of myself with the crystal ball, and then one without. I wanted to convey a sense that my life has been turned upside down by having a long term condition, but the use of a crystal ball also implies a vision into the future, one that is clear and bright.

To make the image where I have seemingly disappeared, I overlaid the middle of the ball from the one with me in it onto the centre image to create a composite image.


So that’s it folks… probably the last few images for the end of my assignment on Dreams and Realities. I never expected this project to be quite so personal, but I’m glad it has been. It’s been cathartic, challenging, and rewarding, and alongside the course I’m taking on living with a long term condition it is helping me finally come to terms with it, and to find a new path.  As I said, last week, there could even be further exploration into a potential exhibition, alongside fellow students at RHACC on the subject next year.

There will be a few more blog posts from Negative Thoughts in the final few weeks of term, mainly going over what we’re learning with Photoshop but also to tie up loose ends.

At this point, my plans aren’t to continue on to level3 in September – (real life is somewhat getting in the way at the moment …but perhaps I’ll look at continuing next year.) I will continue to take photo’s, and develop my skills,  I do intend though to keep my blog up and running, so you’ll still be hearing from me, if you’re happy to come along for the ride 🙂 Since I was diagnosed almost a decade ago, I’ve had a long term goal. To get back into employment in some way. Now that goal is that some time, hopefully in the not too distant future, I’ll be to be able to sell some of my craft and photography work, locally and via an Etsy shop.

Next week, I’ll present my final images to you, to Ria and my fellow classmates, and then it’s all over really….. or is it? Another new beginning awaits…….



p.s. And one last image, it’s partly tongue-in-cheek, but again, it does give some sense of how it feels to live with a long term condition..

Me and my Shadow… f7.1 1/250s 17mm ISO100

You may feel like a shadow of the person that you once were… but there’s still a way forward and a bright, fulfilling future.



Wikipedia: Rene Magritte, Son of Man.

Frida Kahlo image found on Google

http: http://www.look4ward.co.uk/art/marcelo-monreal-s-surreal-collages






NCFE LEVEL 2 PHOTOGRAPHY – Assignment 2 & 3, Unit 2, Task 1&2

RESEARCH (1.1, 1.2)

In the past month and a half, I have been lucky enough to attend two fantastic exhibitions, and to exhibit in one 🙂


Photo London. Somerset Ho. f7.1 1/640s 18mm ISO100

After making our way into London, I have to admit, I was struggling to cope physically pretty quickly, and I don’t think I saw nearly as much as I would have wanted to, but for my first ever photographic exhibition, it was a bit of a show-stopper!  Not strictly speaking an exhibition, it’s billed as an Art Fair, and was jammed with Literati and the glitterati too! Heart-stoppingly beautiful works and some eye-wateringly expensive prices.

Whilst it was amazing to see some of the iconic 50’s & 60’s fashion shots, especially those of John French (personal favourite of mine) to Terence Donovan and Bailey, I really did love seeing candid shots of Marilyn Monroe and Sophia Loren.


Some of the images I liked best were not simply photographs. A lot of them incorporated a range of materials and techniques; from paint to paper cutting & paper pricking, aluminium printed images, concept works such as video and kinetic light images. I am inspired to try out a few of these new-to-me techniques. I really loved these images. Sadly, I cannot tell you who made them, because I can’t stand for too long in one place, and it quite often involved standing waiting for a long time to read what the tiny piece of labelling said… sorry. 😦

I suppose in my own small way I have been making images along these lines for a long time, drawing and machine embroidering onto some of my own photo’s as part of my journalling.

I really was inspired though by the beautiful craft orientated images like that of  Maurizio Anzeri, a ‘photo sculptor’. If you are a regular reader of my blog you may remember my blog piece on this form of artwork. Anzeri takes vintage photographs and embroiders onto them with such precision and skill. Whilst the photograph remains a photographic image, it takes on another life as a sculpture. These beautifully executed, hypnotic works are mezmerising to look at. I am absolutely inspired and thrilled that I have actually seen some of these works. 🙂


I also loved this stunning image of Frida Kahlo (another heroine of mine) .. now having been a photography student for some time now, you’d think I’d have taken a polarising filter with me to reduce the reflections on the glass, wouldn’t you? Still…. it’s given me a chance to play with the image at home… lol. I think there’s still some embroidery I’d like to do…

Sadly we had to leave Photo London fairly quickly, because I was in pain….but it has made me want to go out and see more of what this talented World of Photography has to offer. It’s too difficult for me to choose any one image that I would have liked to have on my wall.. Maybe it’s a bit like when there are too many options on a menu, and you just can’t choose!?


…. my observations (2.2, 2.3, 2.4)

What I like best about these images is that there is something uexpected going on both in front of, and behind the subject.  The man jumping over the blonde lady for example. She seems entirely oblivious to the fact. Clearly engrossed in her phone conversation, and practising her best selfie pout when she saw me turn my camera to her. In the image of the two ladies talking, the background image seems to be some kind of riot, there are police and horses, and objects have been thrown onto the street… in total contrast to the relaxed ladies, chatting with their flasks and hipster outfits. In the final image, there seems to be some kind of march, perhaps a protest march, in France. The picture behind is black and white and the tonality of my image is equally cool in tone. The subject is being photographed by her boyfriend (i think?) yet she is looking at me, taking a photograph of her being photographed.  I felt there was an element of expectation, if that is the right word… everyone wanted to have their picture taken, everyone appeared happy to pose, in contrast to the usual suspicion that surrounds taking a stranger’s photo these days, Perhaps they wondered if I were some as yet, undiscovered famous photographer, and that they too would have their 15 minutes of fame?


LONDON NIGHTS, THE MUSEUM OF LONDON 11 May – 11 November 2018 (1.1, 1.2)

We took a class outing to see this brilliant exhibition.  Consisting of portraits, documentaries, conceptual and photographic film, there are over 200 stunning exhibits showing nocturnal London, in all it’s colourful, vibrant, dramatic glory!

Whilst photographs were not permitted in the exhibition itself, I have managed to find a few of these images by internet search.

Buckingham Palace and Picadilly circus by night. Bob Collins

These stunning images of St.Paul’s after the blitz, 29 December 1940 taken by Daily Mail photographer, Herbert Mason. No camera trickery or Photoshop here. It shows the near total destruction of London but St.Pauls still standing in the haze of dust and dawn reflects the hope that people clung to during WWll

Historically, I’m a lifelong retro fan, but this exhibition had me thinking in some new directions.

I particularly enjoyed, this vibrant shot by Nick Turpin, of a lost in thought night-bus passenger.  I wonder what he’s thinking? Is he lonely or sad? I feel like the use of colour implies hope for the future, coming through the mist.


I was blown away by this image from Rut Blees Luxemberg there is a golden glow in the background, which could be just light pollution, but could easily imply some kind of post apocalyptic glow.

London: A Modern Project

This silver gelatin print on aluminium by Anthony Cairns would definitely take pride of place in my home! I love the geometric leading lines. They appear to be lit. It’s not clear whether this is a car park or a graveyard. The image is in negative.


This exhibition is definitely worth a visit and continues until mid November. There can surely be no other city quite like London? I think it’s at it’s best at night.

If you have spare time afterwards.. the museum itself is fascinating! Go!

The Rotunda outside the Museum also has it’s own exhibition featuring amazing work from students in the local area following the London Nights theme.



ps. Many Thanks Toby for seeing me safely there, and home again. You are a star!


RICHMOND SCHOOL OF ART – June 2018 (2.1, 2.2, 2.3, 2.4)


And then, even more excitingly,  to top it all off, we had our own exhibition here at Richmond Art College. It was well represented by all three levels of NCFE Phtography.


Armed with a hammer and panel pins, I set off… on a very sunny mid morning to put up my chosen images…. still at this point a little undecided as to which would be going up after all!

Some from our Postcode Project

and then the two ‘Product Shoot’ studio images


There isn’t a huge amount of room on the boards, once you take into account the number of students, and the standard of work is pretty awesome across all three groups.

It was lovely to get to meet our fellow students and compare notes, the standard of work was amazing. It was good to also get feedback from our peers.

Such a busy month! I consider myself a true Culture Vulture now…..


research images,  my own and found on Google





DREAMS AND REALITIES – Assignment 3, Unit 2  Task 1 & 2

(1.1, 1.2, 2.1, 2.2, 2.3, 2.4)


(Research and personal images – part 5 – 1.1, 1.2)

This week, I’ve done a little more research into work that I enjoy, by other artists’, using media other than, but also photography.  I began by thinking about how I might like to use their influence within this assignment.  The following images are produced mainly using coloured embroidery thread,  and found images, sometimes found items such as tickets and fabrics. The images are then scanned into the computer and printed as digital images. Some of them are larger installations or illustrations for book covers.

I am by nature a creative person, my work life was generally creative and instinctive.  With mindfulness a relatively new buzz-word, I have long since found enrichment and affirmation through my creativity. My hands are my tools. I feel most grounded when I am surrounded by nature, and my hands are in the soil, a brush against the leaves, or the faintest scent from a flower.  I am a gardener, a plantswoman, I paint with colour in a garden and I am free of limitations.  I am happiest when my hands are moving and working some new piece. When my hands are occupied by yarn or thread, needle or blade.  I flow with a pen or a brush. By comparison, using a PC and technology does not come easily.

RESEARCH (1.1, 1.2)

Mana Morimoto

Mana Morimoto  often works with found images on Google, or her friends’ Facebook pages, this colourful Japanese artist uses bright thread to stitch bright coloured lines from peoples eyes, or to connect people. She even decorates Old Masters Paintings!

Diane Meyer – “embroiders reality in search of truth”

Diane Meyer Berlin. Bernauer strasse.( Image found on her website)

In an age where we increasingly like to publicly display our private lives on social media, we sometimes create an image of ourselves, and our world, that shows only what we want to show. Our public face, but what lies behind that face?  This US artist uses the old craft of cross stitch, which is currently enjoying a revival with both women and men, to enhance photographs, believing that there are ‘hidden truths’ behind the images.

 “The project refers to the failures of photography, In preserving experience and personal history as well as the means by which photographs become nostalgic objects that obscure objective understandings of the past.”  D.Meyer 

Buildings and faces are often ‘pixilated’ by cross stitches, and the colours observed beautifully. I particularly loved her Berlin series. There is great poignancy in her work, as she follows the path of the former Berlin wall. Photographing locations where little sign of the divide remains, just clues to its’ existence such as disused watch towers and gaps between buildings.  The use of threads in her photographs remind the viewer that there are hidden truths behind each image which have been left unsaid or intentionally ignored. You can see more of them here at: her site.

Vivienne Strauss

Although not, (as far as I’m aware) a photographer per se. This one is a little closer to home, as a personal favourite of mine. Since we can show our artistic influences within the brief here in our blogs, please allow me to introduce this wonderfully talented artists’ work. I have been following this lady for some time on social media. I adore her bold geometric, retro-feel paintings, her collages, poetry and vibrant embroideries.  Her work is witty, ironic and beautifully bright.  Humour, rejection, feminism… all life is here.  I can see, and share her love of old novels,  and 50’s chic. Her embroidered poems touch me, and her comical collaged depictions of cats and animals make me smile. Best of all, I love the hilarious montages that she stitches onto vintage flashcards. The birds are my favourites 🙂  I think her work encompasses the title dreams and realities really well, and quite simply it makes me feel good. She inspires me to make and create.. 🙂 I have asked for permission to use some of her images here, and she sweetly granted it.

Thank you Vivienne. You can find more of her work here: http://vivienneart.blogspot.co.uk


I suppose this post touches quite lightly on the subject of dreams and realities,  but finding and exploring these artists has really inspired me to move onto something on a personal creative level.  It touches on my dreams of being able to find a potential career. I’m not sure I’m quite ready to divulge exactly what I’m working on just yet, I don’t want to invest a great deal of time barking up the wrong forest, never mind the tree!!  There are big clues within this post and some of my pieces are almost ready.

So here we are… getting to my point.

As this course progresses I recognize that part of the course for me, is about experimenting and finding new ways to see, and to create.  I am aware that I am finding it harder to be as proactive as I might want to be, in terms of attending galleries (and despite working on all the Harry Potter films) comprehending the technical wizardry that is using Photoshop!! I think it is beginning to dawn on me that a career as a ‘working Photographer’ is less likely.

Yes, you need to be creative and have a good eye, but you also need to be technically accurate (…and technically minded.) I may never be a great photographer.  I am still a bit over-awed the moment I look at any photography forum online by all the gobbledegook and jargon.. although, I admit, it is all becoming clearer. (I am imagining my poor tutor banging her head on the desk right now… 😉 )

Photography, ‘the job’ is, at times, more physically demanding than I had realised, you need co-ordination, a sense of balance and speed (hmm…. that’s me out already!)  You need fast reaction times, deep pockets,  an enormous kit bag, a tripod carrier 😉 , and waterproof mascara!!  If I can combine my love of photography, with my love of all things garden and flower, and my love of craft, then if I take away nothing else from this course then I’ll be happy. 🙂






 http://vivienneart.blogspot.co.uk// facebook: vivennestraussart



DREAMS AND REALITIES – LOST VS. LOSS (This post could be called any number of things… “I’m just waiting to get better..” or ” Oh, but you look really well….”)


DREAMS AND REALITIES –  Assignment 3, Unit 2,  Tasks 2 & 1

(1.1, 1.2, 2.1, 2.2, 2.3, 2.4)



(This post could be called any number of things… “I’m just waiting to get better..” or ” Oh, but you look really well….”)

(Research and personal images – part 6)

RESEARCH (1.1, 1.2)

Whilst mooching about on Pinterest the other day, I came across this lovely image. To me it portrays a sense of emotion and loss, of fading and losing oneself.  YOu can see what once was.

(Sadly, there are no credits for any of these images, so they’ll remain as found images)


And also these….. These images may come in useful for my next blog post. These images give me a sense of the missing. Introspection and their incomplete-ness. The black and white enhances the images, I dont think they would have quite the same impact in colour.


DREAMS and REALITIES – IMAGES (2.1, 2.2, 2.3, 2.4)

Through, or should I say despite illness, I am having to find a new self.  I’m not always sure where it’s taking me, and for the longest time I battled against the acceptance of illness, constantly wishing the old me back, and fearful that acceptance meant ‘giving in; somehow.  Then a conversation with a fellow, but relatively recently diagnosed sufferer, at a mutual support group led to this lovely lady saying to me, “I’m just waiting to get better…”  It’s hard to hear that now.  I was in that place too for the longest time.

Well meaning friends and family, even will say “Oh, but you look really well…” and as much as I know they’re trying to be supportive, it’s not helping. If anything, people who are chronic illness sufferers come quite often from a place of being dismissed or disbelieved, by the medical profession (more often than you’d think) by family, and even by friends. Just because you can’t see it doesn’t mean it’s not there. You can’t see magnetic fields, or gravity, but they’re very definitely there! (thank goodness)

There but not there.

Abstract. taken on Galaxy S6 phone


We were given free reign with this project… and it has taken on a life of it’s own for me. I think with this project, our images don’t need to be purely symbolic, they can be about pattern and texture. This second image shows, lines acros my face. My life has been fractured to some degree but there is light shining through the cracks, which is one of the reasons I think it would best be printed on a translucent medium.

I was a little bit apprehensive about using my mobile phone editing suite to make images, but with two missed college days, half-term, 3 exhibitions, some health issues, the arrival of a new Grandaughter (Ohh, my heart <3) and Tripod Carrier away on business most of this month,  I haven’t had a lot of time for using my camera (…phew, no wonder I’ve not had much time!) or been much able to practice using Photoshop. I made these images using my Galaxy S6 and Snapseed (I downloaded the free app) on my mobile phone.  I took two selfies, and then used the tools to draw, scratch, change colour and contrast and tone.

These two images were recently used within the college environment at a meeting to talk about invisible illness and prescribing therapies. Which is, incidentally how I found my way to this course, via a Wellbeing course.  The local council are keen to be involved with the college in this new way of treating long term, mental and physical health problems. There was even some talk of the possibility of holding an exhibition, next year, on the subject and to include work from other students on these subjects. I’ve also had lots of positive feedback from fellow students and friends too, thank you.  🙂

I have always had a quite irrational fear of getting lost… but so what if I do? I’ll still be somewhere – as my clever 10 year old Grandson pointed out to me once.  I’ve even started a new course to help come to terms with long term disability, but that’s also helping me come to terms with all the loss, but there are good things coming too. New creativity, new skills, new coping strategies.  Underneath all this doodling, my original images are still there… but not there. So although the old me is still clinging on for some reason, there is a new embryonic me forming. This course has probably been a part of that development. Of finding my way.



ps… I hope you’ll indulge just one photo of my beautiful new Grandaughter, Eleri

Eleri f5.6 1/15s 31mm ISO1.6



Images my own and research images from Pinterest and Google












DREAMS AND REALITIES –  Assignment 3, Unit 2,  Tasks 2 & 1  1.1, 1.2, 2.1, 2.2, 2.3, 2.4

(research and images – part 4)

It’s all smoke and mirrors, isn’t it?

Image taken on Samsung Galaxy S6


So, I wasn’t in class last week, because of a migraine.  I understand that the rest of my classmates were delving a little deeper into Photoshop. This is super scary for a girly technophobe like me!  Not that I’m making excuses here, I’ve done what I can, with what I have ( I am the Queen of Make do and Mend, lol)  Tripod Carrier and I don’t have Photoshop software available at home. We use the much more “clunky” (as Ria described it) GIMP editing software. Please be careful Googling that one!

I think am a little cautious about the possibility of grandstanding with the whole Invisible Illness theme. Whilst we’re on the subject though, did you notice last week was Invisible Illness Awareness Week? …And Fibromyalgia Awareness Day was Saturday.  No?? Missed it?? Completely?? 😦  Well….I’m not surprised There were no fanfares or press days, or fun runs. That’s because we are pretty much invisible. Unfortunately, due to the nature of these illnesses, the people who organise these events really need to be ‘well people’ or ‘normals’, as we ‘spoonies and warriors’ like to call people without invisible diseases.  They need to be organised and supported by family, friends, carers.  They definitely need funding.  The charities that support invisible illness are pretty well under funded, and under represented, generally.  I have no answers just observations.


For my part in this weeks’ assignment, I am shamelessly borrowing from a publicity event that was held in Morecambe, last Saturday.  It was small and local, simple but heartfelt and effective. The families of people affected by invisible illness left their loved ones’ shoes on a flight of stone steps, with a label that gave their name, disability and length of time since diagnosis. The best way I can represent this is to demonstrate in my own photographic tribute.



I have taken two images, one of myself sitting on the stairs, with shoes on, and a second single exposure of myself walking away, as if they had been left there by some person that is missing in some way.  I chose the stairs, because they represent for me, a daily challenge, and in these images my ascent on the staircase is my determination to rise above being missing from life.





f5.3 1/80s ISO1250 30mm OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Missing. f5.3 1/80s ISO1250 30mm

The camera was on a tripod so it didn’t move between the two shots.  I did try to take the image using a multiple exposure but there were some technical difficulties.  I just couldn’t do it on my own  (…because I have a cable attached to the shutter remote, and it wouldn’t reach up the stairs, and I was very much hampered in the tiny space that is my hallway!) so this method seems to have worked out for the best. The lighting rig, such as it was, consisted of an anglepoise lamp carefully draped and taped over the door. My trusty Tripod Carrier (promoted to assistant) took the image for me, since I was to be the model. In post editing, I made the first image black & white, and then overlaid the second with a colour image which would represent a er.. brighter, ‘colourful’ life. The shoes are some of my favourites. Sadly, I don’t get to wear them much these days because of the pain that wearing heels causes in my legs for days afterwards.  They represent the old me.

I’m pleased with the use of colour, and black and white on the two different images because the monotone adds something to the ‘missing-ness’ whilst the colour of the second, overlaid image bring a sense of leaving that behind.  I think it says what I was hoping for, although maybe a longer staircase, or much less enclosed spaced might have been better…? Perhaps this is an image I could revisit at a later date, outdoors, on a sweeping stone staircase?

I don’t think there are any rules for this assignment about only using our DSLR’s. The brief says that we should explore alternative presentation,  investigate materials and media…so I ‘m going to just put this one out there.

This series of images have come from one rather unattractive photo of me (Well, I’d certainly rather not post it here anyway 😦 )  that I took on my mobile phone. Since I am still trying to get to grips with photo editing, but am kind of used to using phone editing for social media, I thought I would use the various editing tools on the camera phone to fade, shade, ‘scratch’ and colourise the image to different effects.

We all have a social media life, these days. We all show a ‘public face’. But there’s another side to that story usually, isn’t there? A dear friend (and fellow invisible illness sufferer)  told me recently that she had been feeling very low but didn’t want to call me, because on Facebook, I seem so together, and so happy and well.  “Facebook me” I said. “It’s all smoke and mirrors, isn’t it..?”

These images represent how I feel despite ‘looking well’.. It represents that probably half of me is hidden, scratched out by; overwhelming tiredness and/or pain, anxiety and depression. Or both. The only way I can explain it is, that the colours go.  I can fake it (the far right image) with colour… make up, and a smile sometimes, but those that know me can tell.






With a small apology to those who may be yawning a little at this project being quite so self indulgent. I suppose this is a kind of self portrait project.  A prospect that might have horrified me not so long ago.  I didn’t originally set out to work on something quite so personal as this assignment is turning out to be, but I’m encouraged by my tutor, and fellow classmates, and the more I thought about it the more it mattered to me.

For all that know me, I seem to be rather an extrovert.  Lively. Colourful, even… People always tell me that I look well, (even my GP – who knows I’m not!)  but they don’t often see the shadow of a person I have become since my illness. The sad me, sitting on a sofa, feeling too much in pain to do anything, or see anyone.  Of course there is more to me than invisible illness, and I was once told not to let it define me, but you see, it does, because it colours (…or maybe it’ greys?) every part of my life.

I don’t think this project is going to be my life’s work, exactly.  It doesn’t do me much good to be too introspective. But right now, I know it’s important to me. I begin each year by choosing two words that will guide me through the year. This year, I chose ‘Change’ and ‘Growth’.  In brackets I would add (Learn and Create) I’m doing both.

Okay, no more grandstanding….for now, anyway.  (steps down off soapbox and leaves quietly.)



p.s. If you would like to learn more about #missingmillions, the campaign to support people with invisible illnesses such as M.E.,  F.M., and C.F.S. there is a short Youtube video here





NCFE Level2 Photography

DREAMS AND REALITIES –  Assignment 3, Unit 2, Tasks 1 & 2, 1.1, 1.2, , 2.1, 2.2, 2.3, 2.4



(research and personal images – part 3)

I’ve been thinking about this project. A lot. Like, really a lot.

Visible Invisible f5.6 1/80s 45mm ISO250


I’ve been looking after my brother, who’s had a hip replacement, but in between time, I’ve done some more research. I’ve found another inspiring photographer who speaks to me. Not literally of course, but you know what I mean.


(It appears I have an affinity with Mexican photographers! Perhaps it’s the Latin blood?)

Martina Lopez uses photographic images to create new photographic works by assembling and manipulating existing images and incorporating photographs from her family albums.

Her work shows anguish, trauma, divorce, family battles and death. Cheery, eh? But her work is full of interest. Every time you look at one of her images, you find a new thing to look at in that same image. Often the background comes from a found image and is then used out of context with family photographs.

Dripping with meaning, heavily doomed backgrounds are juxtaposed (yep, I know..it’s that ‘art-school’ word, again) with happy family images.

“By extracting people from their original context and then placing them into fabricated landscapes, I hope to retell a story of their being, one which allows the images to acquire a life of their own. While the pieces from photographs verify an actual lived experience, the landscape stands as my metaphor for life, demarcating its quality, where the horizon suggests an endless time.”
artina Lopez

I can also see parallels of her work with that of some of my favourite artists, contemporary illustrators, and twin sisters, Anna and Elena Balbusso. Their work is simply beautiful; surrealist, painterly, with an ethereal, dream like quality, and that same ability to make you observe more and more each time you look. I could happily post dozens of images of their work but will stick to just one image… Have a Google yourself if you like it. 🙂

Image found on Google


So, you may be wondering how exactly do Martina Lopez and the Balbusso twins speak to you, Carmela? Well, Martina Lopez began working with her family’s photographs as a way of reconstructing memories and exploring feelings of loss and change.  You may already know that I write journals. They are filled with photo’s, notes and scraps, drawings and little memories. In a way I too, am creating a way of reconstructing  memories and I use my journals to explore the same feelings. The reality is that, sometimes, of course, they’re just reminders of Dr’s appointments, but I when I started writing them, in the back of my mind was that they should be beautiful, as well as personal and I thought that, one day…. maybe a long way off in the future, my Grandchildren might wonder what Nanna was really like?

My own family history can be a little ‘chequered’ at best (…don’t even ask…) and so over the years I have become the honourary keeper of records and information.  I have taken photo’s nearly all my life. Maybe not with quite the same level of competence that I have now, but it didn’t really matter. What mattered to me was that I kept them. There are more than 50 albums now, and lots of journals too. A life documented. The albums are stuffed full to bursting. I can barely shut this year’s one already! (…help!) They’re mostly decorated with photo’s but there are tucked away; pressed flowers from my garden, notes from my children when they were small: A letter to The Queen, that I just couldn’t bear to part with, A plan to run away from home (Ohh, my heart 😦 )  A baby scan of my first Grandson, my second too and now a third, this time a girl….<3 ) Nathan’s squiggly little drawings, and Max’s paint-y handprints. There are silly doodles and secret messages of love and…Well…. They. make. me. happy.

Image from my Samsung S6


They are also a refuge from the World, and a quiet place where I can be honest about how I feel about things. Especially my health issues. I don’t really want to bother my family by going on about it but I am often fearful. Sometimes, I am afraid of the path it’s leading me down. Although none of what I have is life threatening, it is life limiting. I am no longer the person that I was.  I have several conditions in fact, all of which are not really visible to an outsider.  I think I may have said in last week’s post that I have what are now called ‘invisible illnesses’. Well, not to me they aren’t. If you look closely enough, you can see how it has changed my life. I don’t mean to be all ‘Oh, woe is me..’ I’ve probably talked more about my illness here than I ever do outside of this blog!

…Some things have changed for the better.  I am softer, I have greater compassion, I have more time for people.  Okay, so there are things I can’t do now, I can’t exercise the way I used to, I don’t have the dynamism and energy that I once had and I can’t work now, (and trust me, that upsets me far more than it does you, dear reader) but I certainly have more time to myself than other people in my life do. I have time to do some of the things I love. Creating, mostly. Photography is part of that creating.

Next Week, May 12th, to be exact is Fibromyalgia Awareness Day. Later on in the year, there will be an awareness week for all invisible illnesses. Sometimes, I wonder why it’s called an ‘invisible Illness’ when so many millions of people have it? That started me thinking…

I don’t dream the way I did, because I do not sleep much, and the reality is I cannot do so many of the things that I used to, but the hardest thing about having an invisible illness…? It makes me feel invisible. Lessened, somehow.

DREAMS AND REALITIES – IMAGES (2.1, 2.2, 2.3, 2.4)

Anyway, the reality strikes that this is really a blog post for my college course, so here are some more of my images that I’ve taken this week on the continuing theme of Dreams and Realities.

Using letters I often use in my journals, cut from magazines, I spelled out the word “Invisible”  and overlaid it with tissue paper to diffuse it. Then placed my hand on top to make a physical connection.  I knew that I wanted to have a very diffused, misty look to this image. In post editing I progressively lightened the image and removed almost all the colour then added a vignette.

I wanted to add more layers to the image, so using an image John took of me in class, and the images of the letters and my hand, I manipulated the image using Photoshop (with the help of Tripod Carrier) to lay the photo of me over the top of the wording to portray the way illness makes me think… and to some degree the way the medical profession sees me.

In these images I wanted to give a sense of emotion to the image. To show how my illness makes me feel. I think I have acheived that with htis image. If I were to do anything different with the image, I would perhaps lighten the image to bleach it out and give that ethereal effect – “not at full strength” implying a weaker feeling or less bold, dynamic self.

In class it was suggested that perhaps if the image of me was moved to one side, there might be space for some text if it were advertising copy. I disagree with this, because it was a personal, stand alone image in it’s own right. Art and photography are subjective subjects by definition, so I am happy with the outcome of this image.

Visible invisible (carmela v3)
Visible invisible f.13 1/100s 55mm ISO100

Using an image John took of me in class, and the photo of letters, I took earlier, I’ve manipulated the image using Photoshop (with the help of Tripod Carrier) to overlay the image on the top of the wording, to portray how my illness makes me feel.

Then I lightened the image by taking out the shadows and highlights, but that wasn’t really working for me.. it’s a bit too obvious. So using different layers, I re-adjusted the colour balance on the letters and kept the layer of myself rather washed out, by removing the tones and colours.


Here’s the final image:

f.13 1/100s 55mm ISO100
Visible invisible (carmela v.4) f.13 1/100 55mm ISO100


DREAMS AND REALITIES – Assignment 3, Unit 2, Tasks 1 & 2, 1.1, 1.2, , 2.1, 2.2, 2.3, 2.4


(research and personal images – part 2)

Mirror, Mirror (1.1,1.2, 2.1, 2.2)

Loosely inspired by some of these images found on Pinterest. I shot this, last week:


Mirror, mirror

However, I was frustrated by not knowing how to set up, let alone how to take the shot I wanted! 😦  Tripod Carrier and I discussed it at length earlier this evening, and we agreed…. I am much better at seeing a scene than creating one.  But ..not one to be easily defeated,  I tried again, in a different way. Off to the conservatory then, where there’s lots of light (not quite enough as it turned out…) and room to set up my tripod and some props…

I decided to play with mirrors, light and oil. I used vegetable oil to write the same word on a mirror, and lit by natural light I took these shots using a remote shutter and a shallow depth of field at f.5.5. I have post edited by lightening and highlighting, I was also shown how to use Photoshop to get rid of the niggly bit of beading on the mirror in the bottom left hand corner and the tiny bit of plastic that I hadn’t noticed on the mirror itself. I like the shiny almost retro metallic feel to the script. “Ooh shiny” – that’s me. Easily distracted.

And finally; Mirror, mirror.

This image is kind of inspired by Time passing…. reflection, collection and recollection. Connection… all of those things.

The images with my face in the round mirror were lit by the ever useful anglepoise lamp, and have cast a slightly vintage-y hue to the image. I quite like these images but in post editing, I noticed a hair on the mirror that hadn’t been visible on the lens, or screen, So I’m not likely to use it. These are really just some experimentation shots. I think there’s more to do on this project yet…..


…and for my friends and family who are concerned that life for me is all doom and gloom… please don’t worry, I find plenty of beautiful, happy, life affirming things to photograph too …. x




Images found on Google and Pinterest, Martina Lopez Photo






DREAMS AND REALITIES – Assignment 3, Unit 2, Tasks 1 & 2, 1.1, 1.2, , 2.1, 2.2, 2.3, 2.4


‘The fear is the reality…’ (1.1, 1.2, )


(Research and personal images – part 1)

…The Fear is the Reality.

Here I am, not so much with dreams, but somewhat stuck in a nightmare. I have a big fear.  A fear of being allowed to be what and who I want to be, or even to voice what I think. Possibly because I’m not even sure what I like, or want to do. Does that sound too personal? Too honest?  Hmm ..maybe, but it is true. The fear is the reality. ‘Good but not good enough.’

I have been in this position once before, when doing an Access course to Art & Design, way back in 2000, the final term of year 2 when we were told we could paint whatever we wanted….. Arrrghhh! I had no idea, and I almost gave up the course.  I can take direction, because I want to please, but I struggle to please myself.  If I could do that term again, I know now exactly what I would have chosen… flowers. Huge canvases of parts of flowers. They’re so sensual. I can completely understand where Georgia O’Keeffe was coming from, despite the guffaws of Tripod Carrier’s friends last year, when we went to see “a load of fannies” at The Tate Modern. I think her work is beautiful, it speaks to me in volumes, and I  found a kindred spirit (albeit a dead one). Now here I am again, without direction, being given another project to do whatever I please, and I am almost paralysed with fear. What if I get it wrong?

Is it Personal? Yes. This blog has become an extension of my journals. It’s easy to sit here cossetted in my nest, safe and warm and pour out my thoughts to you. I might not find it as easy to tell you them in person.  Honest? Yes. The reality for me is that I spend too much time in my own head. I live with pain daily. Wouldn’t it be a nightmare for you too,  living with pain? Every. Single. Day. For. Ever.  I also live with it’s twin spectres; insomnia and depression. Time. I have nothing but time, endless time…. hours of wakefulness and sometimes, fear.

So I have a nightmare that is how to approach this project, without direction, and with the daunting thought that I can do anything I want to interpret it.

“Dreams and Realities.” Where they once were filled with fantasy and colours, my dreams are not really in colour these days, perhaps a reflection of how limited life can feel at times, but probably more likely as a result of never getting stage 4 REM sleep, because of my condition.  Those old dreams were of colour and dancing, soaring like a bird, swimming in tropical seas, Richard Gere and Elvis (Oh, sorry Ria… you didn’t mention fantasy, did you?) Ahem… Right… where was I? Oh Yes…. Dreams… Running men made of Marmite (yes really!) and laughing Trolls that would eat my family (make of that what you will!!). And the reality that is the nightmare, of a life lived with pain. Of the reality of what the medical profession now call ‘invisible illness.’ (…just like fairies, it’s only invisible to those who don’t believe.)

RESEARCH (1.1, 1.2)


“You cannot see me from where I look at myself” francesca woodman

Francesca Woodman, is best known for her beautiful, haunting photo’s of herself, and her models. Her haunting images showing obscured faces, blurred bodies merging into backgrounds, walls, furniture and even wallpaper.  She often portrayed herself as a ghostly image, or an angel. I feel her work shows such intensity, and extraordinary vulnerability. To me, personally, she quite clearly says, ‘I’m here, but I’m not here.’ There’s a lack of distinction between herself, the World, and the world around her. A sense of self-displacement.

“You cannot see me from where I look at myself” She once said of her own work, which was largely rejected in her lifetime. Tragically, this talented girl killed herself in 1981, aged just 22.  I think her work is beautifully sensitive. It’s entirely relevant and contemporary, today.  In today’s world of ‘the selfie’ it seems girls are obsessed with themselves, but are they obsessed with an image of themselves? A mask? ‘…Here but not here?’  I am grateful that growing up, I did not feel that pressure, and with a new Grandaughter due fairly imminently, I fear for her that constant pressure, and demand to fit in or fall out.


“I never painted dreams. I Painted my own reality.” frida kahlo

I came to discover Frida Kahlo when I first saw the film Frida, played by Salma Hayek. I was captivated by this colourful and vibrant female, who painted her pain, anguish, fears and realities. She depicted on canvas a life filled with painful and tragedy, her physical and emotional pain.

“She is hailed as a hero by so many because she is someone to validate their own struggle to find their own voice and their own public personalities” – Edward Sullivan

Co-incidentally, Frida Kahlo once met Georgia O’Keeffe and was, according to a friend, “…very irritated by O’Keeffe.” – possibly provoked by competitive feelings but I see some parallels in their work.  I am a little fascinated by the fact that evidently “She kept mirrors in every room of her house, her patio included, as if she needed constant reassurance of her very existence.” (I too, have mirrors in every room except the kitchen – unless you count the mirrored oven door 😉 ) The garden has several… what does that say about me, I wonder?

Her work drew from personal experience, including marriage, miscarriage, and many operations. Her paintings are characterized by a stark portrayal of pain, incorporating symbolism of both physical and psychological wounds. Neither realism nor surrealism, her work is threaded together with ribbons and hair, roots and vines, bones and corsets. There is meaning in every part. Interconnected.

image found on Google
The Broken Column, 1944 Frida Kahlo http://www.fridakahlo.org


If I had to choose one word to describe what I love about Kahlo’s work, it would be defiance. Kahlo defies her broken body, her physical discomfort, and pain. There is hope amid the despair, but there is often, optimism and humour.  I have that same hope.  I have moments when I have a life that is not touched by pain, anxiety, or sadness, and insomnia. The moments where I am my ‘old’ self are more fleeting, these days though.

Woodmans’ work is intense, and beguiling. It is honest, and sometimes humorous. I would like to hope that some people might find some of those qualities in me.

Okay, so where am I going with all this?  Well….I’m not entirely sure yet. I have done some research, as you can see. I have wrestled this way and that with what I want to do… Which part of me am I wanting to expose to you exactly? I may end up ‘publicly displaying a vulnerability that I may not want to on days when I feel better. There is a happy, cheeky, creative, family orientated, Carmela, but also a quiet, lost person wrapped in pain and sometimes sadness. A side that many never see.  I had hoped to try and maybe integrate my craft somehow into this project, not as a direct image, more as er… decoration… but so far, it’s not really coming together.  Today, I spent some time cutting and weaving photos of family members, I thought about stitching a photographic family tree, but even that has it’s difficulties: How do I present them as an image? What does it say? Does it have a voice? Only to me, perhaps. And in today’s world of data protection, would I be protecting them if I put them here? Probably not.

Loosely inspired by these images from Pinterest

IMAGES (2.1,2.2,1 2.3, 2.4)

So, I looked to the other side. The darker side. ( …perhaps some might say the dramatic side 😉 ) I spent a few days taking shots, but even now, I’m not sure if this is the direction I really want to take. Maybe they are a little too obvious? I used a simple polythene dust sheet to create this ghostly effect. I stood outside and pressed my hands against the window to make them more prominent in the shot.  Using GIMP as an editing tool, I then converted the images to black and white, then raised the contrast and shadow levels, over and over, on the same image  to see what effects I could get Then added a vignette to darken the edges.

Evaluation:  They are indeed pretty spooky, dreamlike/or nightmare-ish (as you prefer to see it), but I think what I am looking to achieve is something a bit less creepy? I think I may re-visit these at some point as I feel that for the purposes of this project I want the feeling of being trapped in ones own skin rather than haunted.


These final few shots, give something of what I want to say… that in some way I am lessened by this so called ‘invisible’ illness… it scratches away at me, and makes life blurred and less colourful. I have often been heard to say I just want my old life back. It feels unfair….A stolen life. Stolen is too strong a word.. but I do feel cheated.

(Yes, I know it’s not a flattering shot!)  A slightly  okay, very, dodgy selfie! Using GIMP (you’re right, Ria… it is clunky compared to Photoshop!)  as the editing suite, I converted to B&W, then overlaid the same image twice, then raised the contrast and highlights, and blurred the image. The final image is almost unrecognisable as the the former but using the same method, I continued to raise the contrast and highlights and then to draw over the image…. I think I need to find something between the two…


Long-term, chronic illness changes you. In some ways, it changes who you thought you were, and what you thought you knew about yourself.  My foundations are somewhat shaken. I think I’m fairly happy with this as a starting point for my assignment.

lots more to come….






NCFE Level 2 Photography

Studio Product and model – Task 2

The Pirate’s Treasure?

(Research and personal images)

RESEARCH (1.2, 3.1, 3.2)

I have found a few images to inspire me.


We’ve been doing a lot of work in the studio, recently. We’re taking images of ‘a product’ and then another of ‘the product with a model’. Ours is a big class, and it’s proving a little tricky to find time (not to mention space!) for us all to work.


You may remember, last term, I did some studio shots, with the floral shoes. Sadly, I didn’t have enough time to fit in taking any shots with a model included in the shots. Since the flowers are long since dead, I couldn’t really take more photo’s for a product with a model. Luckily, my trolley holds all manner of photo props, these days. so Ria agreed that it would be okay for me to take some with a new product. Toby (…bless you, Tobes :0 ) “volunteered” to be my model for the shoot.  Although I hadn’t exactly planned my shoot or practised it at home, I had brought with me a pile of costume jewellery, which I thought might make interesting subject matter… I was hoping for some drama, with lots of dramatic highlights and shadows… and, of course,  a bit of bling.


Observing all the necessary H&S regs, regarding making sure everyone was as safe (and comfortable) as could be within the studio environment. We started…

With a little help from my fellow students – John, who is very tall and brilliant for helping with tall things! We set up the lighting rig with a main and fill light, using oven gloves to keep hands safe from hot lamps.  I set up the scene with a black backdrop, a cleverly disguised backpack (for Toby to rest his arm on) and red and black velvet cloths for extra texture and the softness and drape that velvet allows.

(3.2, 3.3)


After taking a few shots with the red backcloth, I decided I didn’t like it at all, I felt it was just too distracting from the jewellery, which was supposed to be the main focus of the images. So, we ditched it….

In the second and third shots, the key light set to 2, and a fill at light 1/3, both directed towards the jewellery, but the fill light was too bright, and my f.stop set too low, so the image is bleached out. I raised the f.stop to allow less light through the lens, and got a better outcome.


Ria wondered why I had chosen to use both lights directed at the jewellery, explaining that the specular highlights (the areas that show up as bright highlights on the pearls) are appearing as two specular highlights as opposed to one, which would look better. We turned the studio lamp away from the subject and reflected the light using a white reflector board and as you can see, it shows up just the one highlight on the pearls and bling-y bits of the image.



My fellow students and I all agreed that perhaps the theme of the image since although it features some more feminine aspects, such as pearls and sparkly things, the tattoos and Toby’s hands reminded us a little of pirates. We decided that a pirate might be a little more.. er… GRRrrrr!……and grasping! So we asked our valiant pirate-y model to turn his hand over and think GRRrrrr!……

Ahhhharrr! Pirate’s treasure? OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

This is my final image for a studio product with model. I really like that you can see the jewellery ‘spilling’ over onto the bottom of the image. I like that the dots of the backcloth are highlighted as little gold sparkles. I also like the juxtaposition of masculine/feminine and the strength of the image.  However, If I could re-shoot this set of images, I think I might ask Toby for a slightly stronger pose. But my heartfelt thanks anyway, dear Toby. 🙂

(p.s. next time, I will use the nail varnish!)


Classmates studio shots:

  • Midori’s Tea Ceremony Shoot

In complete comparison to my somewhat camp and overdressed scenario, Midori set up a beautifully simple backdrop with a Japanese tea service complete with a red folded napkin.


I love the drama of the creases in the folded napkin and the shadow of the porcelain bowl.  Since time was running very short, I’m afraid I didn’t note down the settings on the studio lamps but got two very nice images.

  • Hannah’s Walking Holiday Shoot


Hannah set up her shots and initially the lighting was a little too dark.  I had my ISO too low, and f.stop too high for the first image on the left, which I changed for the second shot and got a slightly better image, but we still needed to adjust the studio lights.  After a little bit of fiddling about with the lights we got it just right, and took some good clear images.


I was the model for Hannah’s shots, so after she had finished, she sat in for me whilst I took my shots of her.

f7.2 1/100 25mm ISO250  OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Hannah’s holiday

In the image above, I used a wide angle lens but the backdrop is a little too narrow and you can see the classroom wall behind. So I changed my angle to portrait and took some better shots.


I like the first image. Now, you may have to use your imagination a little here, but Hannah is perched on a dry stone wall, looking pensively into the distance at beautiful, rolling hills and the dramatic Brecon Beacons, whilst resting with her map and trusty camera.

The image on the right is my favourite, however,  because you can just see a tiny highlight on her glasses, which makes it look just a teeny bit more holiday-like. 🙂

We still have a couple more studio shoots to do, so this post may well be extended, next week.




(1.3, 1.4)

Health and Safety on Location

Do not enter. Brentford Dock OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA


Essentially, as with any other profession, these days, Health and Safety Regulations around photography are mostly common sense.  That, and limiting the amount of hazards as far as practically possible, whilst taking responsibility to ensure one’s own health, safety and welfare, and that of any photo subjects whilst working.


Be mindful of trip hazards, e.g camera bags and gear, or when using tripods, and/or lighting stands outside. Carry out a mental risk assessment before starting to shoot. You can even download a template for a written risk assessment here (www.hse.gov.uk) Remember, it’s your responsibility if things go wrong! A keen awareness of Health and Safety will also reassure clients, subjects and members of the public that you care about creating a safe environment for them.

  • Identify hazards eg. decide if anyone is at risk.
  • Evaluate risk and put precautions in place
  • make notes if necessary about the situation for later reference

If you’re in a public place for example, be aware that a camera bag, or tripod represents a trip hazard not just to yourself, but also to passers by.  Having tripped over them myself on several occasions now, I realise the importance of this one!  N.B. Also lookout for traffic, (no matter how good the shot! …I’ve been beeped at more than once.)  Watch out for cyclists, and kerbs too (yep…tripped over those.) and especially people.  This ‘spatial’ awareness should also extend to waterways, and steep slopes. It’s a good job Tripod Carrier is also my lookout, and very practised at catching me when I’m off balance!! (a rather unfortunate effect of my ill health:( ).

Common sense would dictate that you do not obstruct the pathways, and not just because it is a legal requirement not to do so.


We often see this sign now, and although it may not be a legal requirement, it can mean that photography will be objected to. Sometimes, quite strongly!

Image found on Google

Members of the public do not need a permit to take photos in public places. TFL has rules about photography on train station platforms, as do most airports, unless for personal use.  Some Public landmarks e.g. Nelson’s Column have by-laws protecting them also. You can always check their respective websites first if you’re unsure.

You do not have to ask permission to take people’s photo’s, but it’s probably better that you do 🙂 A winning smile, and a compliment go a looong way. 🙂  If you wish to take photographs in a private place and publish them, you’ll need to obtain permission, and/or a ‘model release’ or consent form. You can obtain a copy of a model consent form from the Association of Photographers, here: ( www.the-aop.org)  In this day and age, it seems a little obvious to say that if you wish to take photo’s of other peoples children.  You must obtain permission from their parent or guardian.

Bear in mind also that a reaction to photography can be different in many societies and cultures. Even if there are no legal restrictions, people may object quite strongly to having their photo taken. Reactions can range from complaints and even to violence!  Recently, a woman in Richmond became quite agitated when I took a photograph of her bike as she walked away from it.  It was a really pretty retro, baby blue bike, there were bright flowers in the basket, and she’d leant it up against a yellow brick wall. The light was perfect and I took the shot. She stormed back towards me, and demanded to know why I had taken the photo!  Yikes! I explained I was a student, produced my student card and offered to show her what I’d taken. She checked my camera, and then explained that recently, her husband’s bike had been stolen… evidently, there is a gang that go around taking photo’s of bikes and then stealing them. At this point, she had calmed down and when I offered to delete the image she agreed it was okay, although she didn’t want me to put it online… just in case. So I am respecting that wish.

You must be aware that whilst you have rights to take photos, if the police regard you as a terrorist threat (a little unlikely in my middle-aged-Nanna-person) but they can stop and search you.

You cannot (and should not..) trespass to take photo’s. If you want to take photo’s on private land, ask permission. If you are friendly, polite and professional, most people will grant permission.

If you’re setting up business as a Photographer, you may decide to make a Health & Safety Policy for your business. You can download a template from http://www.hse.gov.uk

I found a really helpful article on Street Photography and the law here: http://www.amateurphotographer.co.uk/technique/expert_advice/street-photography-and-the-law-96304

Public Liability Insurance – If you are being paid to take photographs you need to take out public liability insurance, which should cover you for any liability for damage caused to another person, or property, whilst working.


If you set up business and go on to sell your work, you’ll probably need to know the difference between commercial and editorial use. An editorial picture can be used to illustrate an article, or educational text but not to promote or sell a product. ‘Commercial use’ pictures can be used to sell, or promote something or to raise money for a cause.


Most photographers, as I now know, spend long periods of time hunched over either, a camera on a tripod, or a computer.  You can limit the potential issues of injury through back strain, by being aware of how you lift, and carry your photography equipment. Don’t overload yourself, and bend at the knees rather than bending your back.  When both editing photo’s and writing my blog, I can spend a considerable amount of time at the pc. It’s important to take regular breaks to reduce headaches, and eye strain. Rather like Goldilocks & the Three Bears story, the chair I’m sitting in, right now, dear reader, is perfect for Tripod Carrier, but causes me some discomfort, so getting up and moving around does help. You may be relieved to hear that I have an ergonomically designed wrist, and mouse pad and, a very comfy foot rest. 🙂  Be aware of screen glare, use brightness and contrast settings to reduce flicker.


Cameras are expensive items to replace. Insurance is a good idea, especially if you intend to take photos in an area where you might expect to be robbed (mmm hmm… I know… perhaps you think you wouldn’t be?) but if you are taking photo’s whilst away on a trip somewhere abroad, for instance, it may be a consideration… better safe than sorry, eh?  Don’t make a big show of your marvellous camera. Try not to ‘advertise’ your very expensive camera, don’t make it obvious! Keep it in a bag that doesn’t advertise its’ value, use a secure strap, and don’t leave your camera bag unattended.

Another good reason to be careful whilst shooting, is dropping expensive camera parts.  A while ago, when shooting at Kew Gardens with a fellow student I dropped my lens!! EEEK!! For a heart stopping moment as I picked it up, I feared the worst, but thanks to some sound advice to buy a UV filter to protect the lens, my lens was safe whilst the £6 UV filter was completely smashed… lesson heeded and learned.

So, there you have it… all the basics of ‘elf n’ safety for photographers…..




Research and resources from:

No photo’s sign from Google







Postcode Project  Unit 1

Final Five re-visit  (1.1, 1.2, 1.3, 1.4)

On our last day of term, we all got together to show photo’s for the final 5 part of the Postcode Project.


It was amazing to see everyone’s work all laid out and I couldn’t help but smile and think how far we’ve all come.


It was interesting to see how much difference the layout made to our photographs, with texture, pattern, rhythm and colour being almost as important as the image itself. This was something I hadn’t really considered before, but will consider more carefully in future.

It was good to both give and get peer feedback too, there were some strong, valid opinions and thoughts expressed, as well as congratulations and praise.

Something that became clear when looking at the prints was that many of us had felt somewhat disappointed by the printed image, feeling that they were a little ‘dark’. This is when Ria said that we were now discovering the difference between ink and screen. It’s  something I wasn’t prepared for… I have become so used to scrutinizing the images for many hours on my PC or camera screen, which is backlit, that the printed image was a little bit underwhelming. Perhaps it would be a consideration to lighten our photo’s in post edit? I am beginning to understand now, just how much post editing goes on in this digital age!

Ria commented that although my images were “beautifully seen” that I hadn’t entirely fulfilled the brief as far as the depth of field images were concerned so I am in the process of re-printing them for something that although technically correct, is really rather boring…. (just pictures of some of my vintage cameras) not half as visually exciting or interesting as the ones I’d chosen to show but at least I’ll be keeping to the brief…. and maybe even getting a pass mark!

I also decided to re-edit one of the ‘movement’ photo’s because of a small detail in the background… There is a little piece of white litter in the background that is actually quite distracting to the image. To be honest, I hadn’t even noticed it until it was printed!!

A little bit of Photoshop magic and Ta dah! …..Makes a difference, doesn’t it?

Comments from my peers were that the image of the Syon clinic building was not as striking as it had been on screen, and I have to admit that I agree, so I am re-editing the final 5, and changing a couple of the images. I’ve sent them off to the print labs and hopefully, they’ll be better.  I’ll submit them at college on Tuesday for Ria’s approval.

I only really have to replace one of the original images, I think I’m leaning towards the last one…. How about you?.

I’ll let you know.