Summer Project and Dissertation Thoughts

The summer project we were given in uni to work on over the summer was to start researching, looking at and producing work that would see us through our final year and form our final piece, preferably in line with our dissertation which should lead on from our Literature Review that we wrote in the final term of our second year (you can read mine here ).  I wrote about snapshots and how the introduction of technologies, such as the camera phone and DSLR’s, software like Photoshop and photo-sharing (Facebook and Instagram for example) have changed how we take, manipulate and share images.  Many family photo albums have ceased to exist once film cameras have been replaced by digital capture devices, instead these images remain stored as digital data on computers and discs, a selection being uploaded to be shared with friends on social networking sites. 

With this train of thought going on, I have started to turn my attention to the actual images we share.  With software such as Photoshop becoming more affordable and easy to use we can manipulate images we take , never having to share a bad photo again.  I have noticed that many of my friends now go through their images with a fine tooth comb, editing sometimes to the same degree that an advertising image may be edited, before sharing.  Gone are the photos of us with less than perfect skin/teeth/hair etc, as to are the badly framed images where peoples heads are not in the shot, blurry images and those “happy accidents” where the camera has miss-fired and captured something we didn’t mean to capture.  Much of this is down to the image taking capabilities and the method of shooting.  With film cameras we did not have the means to review an image straight away, and the cost meant we couldn’t take images one after the other after the other like we can now.  With film, people were limited to 24 or 36 shots per roll (35mm film) and depending on how much film you could afford to purchase and then pay to get developed, now with digital image taking you are only limited by how many images you can fit onto a memory card or the battery life of your camera.

Anyway, back to images we share, which I’m thinking is where I am going to be focusing my energy for this project and dissertation work…

rene not a pipe


I keep seeing this image (above,The Treachery of Images (This is not a pipe) by Rene Magritte) and I am beginning to form links with images we see today.  (Rene Magritte was a surrealist painter from Belgium who lived between 1898 and 1967, the image is currently on display in LA County Museum of Art) .  The image makes us question our relationship to images, this is a pipe, but it’s not a pipe, it is not the actual object but a representation of that object.  In the same way, with photo editing software, we an question photographs and other images we see today, flaws an be removed, skin and eyes made brighter, teeth whitened, people slimmed, backgrounds changed, people an be edited out – a pretty endless list of changes can be made to an image before being shared to the public domain.  Any image we view now needs to be viewed in the same way as Rene’s work as many of the images we see are just representations, not a actual truth which could be captured and less easily manipulated when using film to make images.

With film though, and its the same with digital image capture, as a viewer we are never really sure if an image has been staged to look a certain way or if it is spontaneous, for example, I could decorate my house out with all the Christmas paraphernalia and take images supposedly showing the festive season but have taken them in June… the viewer could come to the conclusion that the images were actually made in December but the truth is way out.

This all then brings me to advertising campaigns, with all this photo-editing going on in our own homes, and fairly easily at that given that there are you tube tutorials for just about anything and everything you could ever want to do, we, as viewers are more likely to question adverts.  But this is not my point… With all images being edited to some extent or other, our “snapshots” that we share have become an advert, something carefully constructed, and thought about in terms of how we are seen in these images by the viewers of them.  As image takers and sharers we are fully aware of what the images we are seen in say about us.  We want to be like the models in adverts with the perfect skin, glossy hair, having fun, being fashionable, being popular etc… that we only ever share the best images of us.

Anyway, this is just a few of the thoughts going around in my head at the moment with regard to my dissertation…

For the project that runs alongside my dissertation I have been looking at film snapshots and Corrine Day in particular as she has shot many projects in the style of snapshot photography, Diary (some images from this project can be viewed on her site here) being one of them.  I am unsure which direction to go in with snapshot photography as I have a few directions and interests on this subject – one of those being to take my own snapshots and focus, possibly, on re-creating or making snapshots of everything I would normally use digital imaging for, or look at the extinction of film photography and photographs, family albums as actual objects, and old film created photographs as the precious objects they once were.


For the past 5 to 6 weeks I have been suffering with really bad insomnia ( info about it here…) I’ve suffered from it for years on and off but normally it seems to go away on its own.  This time it has stayed with me for a course of weeks on end.  I have no idea what has caused it and have looked into likely reasons for it and also ways to try to get rid of it but nothing seems to be working at the moment.  I don’t want to go down the medication route as I have done that before, while effective for short periods of time, medication doesn’t seem to work and I hate the idea of relying on medicine long-term.  It leaves me feeling groggy and unable to concentrate (not good when you need to drive places and do things), affects my motivation levels (which, ok, are affected by lack of sleep but not as much) and generally leaves me feeling a bit useless.

Last night was probably the worst I have been for a while (maybe 2 weeks) where it felt like I was lying there for hours but when I checked the time it had merely been a matter of minutes, I couldn’t get comfortable and seemed to be moving around every 5 seconds although I believe this was more out of frustration than anything else, I was too hot then too cold even thought the room temperature was at a fixed constant, then my mind started playing tricks –  was that movement in the shadows I saw? , did I just hear something?

Even worse are the thoughts I allowed my mind to have… Is it just me awake now?  I bet it is.  Is the darkness closing in around me?  How long has it been now?  Why am I the only person that can’t get to sleep?  Am I really tired?  I wonder what I could be doing instead?  And then there is the emotional thing of feeling so lonely when there is only you awake…

So, while all this crap was going on in my  head and I was tossing and turning and checking the clock for the bazillionth time I had a thought about making this into a project of sorts.  Next time I can’t sleep (and I dare say it will be soon) I am going to get my camera out and start documenting it and see what I can come up with.  Lets start using this ‘illness?’, ‘incapability?’, ‘sleep failure?’, whatever term you use for it into something that could be quite interesting.

A Model Family – The Finished Product

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I started this project using an idea that started off in secondary school regarding family and trust circles.  I drew out some circles, graduating out from myself to the people that were closest to me and worked out from that.  I set about looking at the connections between myself and sets of people who I knew and also the movements of people within those groups.  I wanted to examine the relationships between people who I knew and my family.  It was important tome to use my family and friends as I wanted it to be personal to me and felt that I could pick apart and really go in-depth the movements between certain people in these groups.

I came up with a series of diagrams, ones with the people named in the groups, another with just the movements of the people outlined and one with nothing apart from the sets of groups and where they lay in relationship to me and other groups.  These bare diagrams were a stepping stone to where my project went next.  I continued drawing diagrams and as I looked back on them they started to remind me of cells, molecules and the solar system.  One of the diagrams I drew inspired me to make a 3D model as I could see, from the diagram, how it would come together.

The diagrams I drew were colour coded for the groups of people that were being represented and I chose to keep as much to the colour code as possible.  I don’t think it matters that the viewer doesn’t know the colour code, what matters is that it gets people thinking about the relationships of the groups and gets them asking questions.


I decided to continue on this path and created another 3D model which is stripped bar of any friends and concentrates purely on my family group.  The colours used to represent the people is similar to the first model as I wanted it to appear quite uniform, but the actual colour code is different.

I looked into names for the models I had made and chose the overall title “Model Family” as that is what I had created, models of my family, models of relationships to people within those “family groups”.   Individually, I have named them after equations that I came up with after looking at them and deconstructing the diagrams I had drawn.  the largest model is called M=F(1IF,1EF)+Bf(1SF,1AF)+Fr(1BF,1CF)+O(1UF,1WF,1CF,1SF), the next smallest model is called 2P+2B+1M=NF(1EF,1AF,1K)+1Bf(1Bf,1RF), the 3rd is called NF(2P+3C) and the smallest is just called M. I created and called them equations as a nod towards them looking like scientific structures.  I didn’t want to call them Model Family, Model Family Simplified etc (which I was  going to call them originally) as they sound too obvious.


I chose to mount them against a white background of Foam Board, again, as a nod towards the scientific nature of the appearance of them.  I thought about having them free-standing but when I tried that it didn’t look quite right.  I needed a clean backdrop which showed off the colours and the relationship bonds between the groups and decided that a white background really showed that off.


I am happy with the way the project has turned out.  when I started this project I wasnt sure where it was going to take me or what the outcome would be.  I am surprised at how well they came out and would like to continue this project using other people and their families and friends to create more models that could be used for comparison purposes.  I think that other families models will turn out different going by family circumstance (ie divorce) and different life experiences will change the friendship groups too.  Some groups may not exist at all and this is something I am keen to look at in the future.

A Model Family

I set out with no real idea of how to approach this subject as I didn’t just want it to be a series of photos that people couldn’t relate to, strangers faces that didn’t mean anything to the viewer, how would that be interesting I asked myself?


I started off thinking about my family tree and a project that I had done in Religious Education in secondary school about trust circles where you put yourself at the centre and work outwards in a series of concentric circles with the people you most trust closest to yourself, this I found didn’t just include my family but friends too.  I looked at the values I held that I used to grade these people and found that they were the same but moving outwards they became diluted.


I looked at how people interacted with each group and how movements in friendship came about, my best friends are there for a reason and have moved inwards, whereas other people have moved outwards, my brother, who should be in my immediate family is put into my extended family group as we don’t speak much, but he is still family.


I looked at these circles and movements and simplified down my diagrams to the extent that they are bare save for the colour co-ordinated sections.  Once they came to being at this stage they seemed to remind me of atoms that appear in chemistry, or the solar system.  Both are built upon with one central item being the basis for the rest to gravitate around.  I likened this to myself, how I am at the centre of my ‘world’ and how everything moves around me.


I drew up another diagram, this time using circles and lines to represent my different groups of family and friends and came up with something that looked like a molecular structure seen in chemistry.  I decided to use this to create a 3D piece of work from, based on the idea that I am central and everyone in my circles of friends is linked to me and to other groups.  This is my final piece.


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Project Underway, Surprise Findings

Today I have been working on this new project brief which is supposed to be about family and values and so far I have come up with a ‘sort-of-family tree/diagram’ showing my friends and family and how everything is inter-linked and how friends seem to ‘travel’ up and down the scale of friendship from acquaintance to friend and also the other way too, how work friends can become close friends and how the velocity of friends changes depending on how close you are to me.  I found it interesting, when creating this diagram, that family members seemed to remain static throughout, although I suppose I have been conditioned by society and family beliefs and teachings, that family is family and you have to accept that which would explain why they don’t move about like my friends do. 

I have fewer people in close circles of friends and far greater numbers of friends the further out you move toward the acquaintances field.  These are things I am really interested in with regard to this project, I want to understand my own values of friendship and the meaning of family within this along with the reasons for ‘friend-migration’ within these groups and how what we do/how we develop effects and ignites these changes in friendship groups.  Maybe I am going to be looking a bit too hard at these, often fragile, relationships which could make me question them, it could make me re-evaluate what I hold important in a friend or family member?  I don’t know but I think I am prepared to look at this and see where it takes me.