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