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



2 thoughts on “DREAMS AND REALITIES – Visible Invisible

  1. Another excellent blog post, I adore your work and feel privileged to have you share your very personal assignments with us. Please keep going with the blog, and with your photography. What next?! Xx

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