1. Essays

This page results from the following in the tutor feedback to Asg. 1,

I’ve given you several references on the theme of the male nude. Wrote a 500-word blog post on one that you think is particularly relevant for this assignment submission and upload this to your LL before we meet again …
You mention in your notes that you thought of documentary photography as perhaps ‘to me, factual and dispassionate’. Can I suggest you have a look at  Chloe Dewe Matthew’s project Shot at Dawn – a project which is both a poetic but also factual exploration of her commissioned subject: http://www.chloedewemathews.com/shot-at-dawn/ †

tutor feedback, Asg. 1

 There is additional information here: http://shotatdawn.photography/

That needs two essays, The Male Nude and Documentarianism.

The full list of photographers cited in the feedback is:
Nudes – John Coplans, Craigie Horsfield, Robert Mapplethorpe, and I would add Peter Hujar.
Documentary – Chloe Dewe Matthews.
Churches – Anton Laub.


The concept of ‘documentary’, with reference to Chloe Dewe Matthews’ project Shot at Dawn

My tutor noted my stated approach to documentary photography as ‘factual and dispassionate’ and suggested that I should look at  Chloe Dewe Matthews’ project Shot at Dawn.

If I consider myself to be within any genre of photography it is mainly in documentary. It is therefore important that I clarify my own view on what that means and it may also be interesting to see how this changes as I progress through these courses.

I intend to contextualise my comment, examine several definitions of documentary photography and then relate them to Dewe Matthew’s work.

I used the phrase ‘factual and dispassionate’ in my initial thoughts on the assignment, and linked my approach to Terry Barrett’s categories of explanatory and descriptive photographs (Barrett, 2000, p.66). This was in response to a phrase used in the assignment brief to, ‘explore the convincing nature of documentary’ (Boothroyd, 2017, p.45).

Historically, David Bate (2016, p.64), acknowledging Steinert, identifies two strands of documentary photography, the ‘objective’ style of Atget and Sander, and the ‘subjective’ of Cartier-Bresson, the latter developing into reportage, ‘that aimed to tell stories through pictures’.
Bull (2010, pp.107-8) suggests that documentary photography is grounded in the socially concerned work of Riis and Hine.

There is nothing here to suggest that my notion of ‘dispassionate’ photography is valid, although ‘factual’ might still be so.

Michelle Bogre (2019, pp. 22-3) in seeking a definition spoke to numerous ‘photographers, editors and industry professionals’ and quotes many of them:
Jorge Ribalta (critic) mentions ‘realism’;
Misha Friedman (photographer) specifies ‘seeking truth’;
Shahida Alum (photographer and educator) declares ‘anything nonfiction’.
Those are just the first three used in the book and the concept of ‘truth’ or its synonyms runs through many of the others.

Valley of the Shadow of Death, 1855, Roger Fenton
 Interior of Secundra Begh After the Massacre,
c. 1858, Felice Beato

In a later chapter (pp. 62-64) Bogre, lists some examples of photographers whose reputations have suffered from their forsaking truth:
Roger Fenton’s c.1855 image Valley of the Shadow of Death with its arranged cannonballs (in this case, the deception did not become apparent during his lifetime);
Felice Beato’s Interior of Secundra Begh After the Massacre (c. 1858) where he is thought to have obtained additional human remains to populate the scene;
Dorothy Lange ‘directed’ Migrant Mother (1936), only including three of the subject’s seven children and instructing two to look away;
Bogre does not mention Bill Brandt whose family and friends enacted many of his images from the 1930s and 40s;
On more recent photojournalism, Brian Walski lost his job after combining two images from Basra, Iraq in 2003; Reuters removed all its images by freelance Adnan Haaj when he was found to have added plumes of smoke to a 2006 image of a Israeli attack on Beirut; AP terminated Narciso Contreras’ contract when he cloned-out a video camera from a photograph of a Syrian rebel in 2013.
Truth, then, is important and reputations and careers can be lost when it is not upheld.

Tank Man, 1989
Jeff Widener

I wondered whether there might be some relevance in the photographer’s intention, in the sense that a photojournalist might set out to document a particular event or a architecturally-inclined photographer might set out to photograph a particular building, whereas Cartier-Bresson, for example might simply take a walk and see whether any images presented themselves. This notion does not have legs, though because  Jeff Widener’s 1989 image of Tank Man was opportunistic.

It may be concluded thus far that a documentary photograph must be truthful and that the photographer can be passionate about the subject, indeed some of those questioned by Bogre thought that emotional engagement was essential.

It is worth noting that the majority of the examples given are images of people. Let’s turn to Dewe Matthews’ work to examine some inanimate subjects. The description of Shot at Dawn ends,

The project comprises images of twenty-three locations at which individuals were shot or held in the period leading up to their executions and all were taken as close to the exact time of execution as possible and at approximately the same time of year.

Chloe Dewe Matthews (2013)
from Shot at Dawn, 2014
Chloe Dewe Matthews
Label for image, left

The specific subjects range from rudimentary cells and stark brick walls to (what are now) fields. Without information on the nature of the project, they are mostly anonymous and without obvious interconnection: having that information makes the images poignant and, of course, provides the link between them. Interestingly, there is the option on Dewe Matthews’ web site to switch the image captions on and off and, personally, even knowing the subject of the series, I am more affected when the caption is there to read.

from Newport Pub (1976/78),
Tish Murtha

I have mentioned elsewhere on the site how a personal connection with a subject affects one’s reaction, a good example in my case being the work of Tish Murtha: I am far more engaged by her series Newport Pub (1976/78) than her other work because I was born in the town, and sometimes ended an evening at the run-down pub she depicted, this at around the period when the images were taken.

A Hasidic family relax on North Beach, as the clouds gather
from Hasidic Holiday (2008)
Chloe Dewe Matthews

Dewe Matthews’ emotional engagement is clearer in some of her other projects where she has clearly established a sympathetic relationship with her subject. The delightful Hasidic Holiday (2008) in particularly notable in this regard.

In conclusion, then, my view of documentary photography was incorrect. It is generally thought that the photographer must engage with his or her subject but it must be depicted accurately. Perhaps what I was trying to express is that documentary photography should stop short of what Barrett (2000, p.76) describes as ‘ethically evaluative’. Bogre, in her introduction (2019, p. 13) states that photographers ‘present a truth, although never the truth’. Mary Warner Marion (2012, p.165) quotes William Stott’s Documentary Expression and Thirties America in defining documentary as, ‘the presentation or representation of actual fact in a way that makes it credible and vivid to people at the time’ and goes on to say, that it does ‘not have to be dispassionate; it could communicate emotion’.

It was also noted that titles are sometimes essential to convey the purpose or meaning of an image, as can be an overall explanation of a project.

[1003 words]

The Male Nude


I intend to explore the occurrence of the male nude in art and in photography and then look at the three photographers suggested in the tutor feedback for Asg.1 (Coplans, Horsfield, Mapplethorpe) and also Hujar. That will exceed the suggested 500 words and so my initial approach will to allocate roughly 500 words to each part.

I stated some initial thoughts on 11th February while waiting for some books on the subject to arrive and for a visit to the Barbican’s Masculinities show: I have the books but the show only opens today (20th Feb) and so that will be added later. My a priori thoughts with no research were,

While female nude photography is commonplace in daily life (although less so now in newsagents) and in art, I was not really aware of male nude photography until starting this course. It would be interesting to contrast the proportion of nude males to females in sculpture with that in art photography (I think statistics on the former are available but obtaining the latter might be more difficult).
I have a notion that photographers in this genre tend to be gay (Mapplethorpe, Hujar) but that might be unwitting prejudice or an unwarranted assumption. Explorations of the male and female gaze would require some triangulation (or perhaps quadrilateralisation) and are outside the scope of this essay.

11th Feb

The male nude in Western art and photography

A 2018 article in the Daily Telegraph (Furness, 2018) referred to an analysis of the Metropolitan Museum in New York which revealed that while 85% of the nudes on display were female, less than 5% of the work displayed in its modern art section was by women.

While male nudes (depicting athleticism) outnumber female nudes (celebrating fertility) in extant Greek classical statuary (Sorabella, 2008) this did not survive the classical era. The Council on Trent in 1563 forbade ‘lascivious portrayals of unashamed beauty’ and thereafter, ‘representations of the naked male all but disappeared’ (Cooper, 1995, p.8). Cooper goes on to report that there was some nude male photography ‘for a relatively small audience’ around the turn of the twentieth century, but then very little until the 1950s when it reappeared with ‘genitals discreetly hidden’ and was not until the 1980s that ‘visibility of the male nude, fully exposed’ became commonplace. (It must be supposed that explicit photographs of all forms of nudity and sexual activity have been available in particular markets since soon after the invention of the medium, however this summary concentrates on images intended for artistic rather than for erotic purposes, however those may be defined.)

The different treatments of male and female nudity is noted by Davis (1991, p.7) who cites two cases heard in 1971 where Huffman v. United States ruled that ‘depictions of female genitalia are not obscene but in Levin v. Maryland it was decided that ‘penile erections are obscene’.

Cooper (1995, pp.10-11) identifies various purposes for male nude photography. These include photographs used as the basis for painting and sculpture; medical and scientific (such as Muybridge); anthropological and colonial; naturism and nudism, including some overlap with fitness and bodybuilding (some aspects of which were ‘taken over in the 1940s by an emerging homosexual subculture’); advertising (which used discrete images) and images for erotic purposes (which did not). Within the purely artistic arena, Cooper identifies three strands, images of youths (from the 1900s); from ‘pictorialism’ to ‘new realism’ exploring the use of the medium as much as the male body; and more recently its use in political works including the feminist. The second edition of Cooper’s book adds a category of imagery surrounding the AIDS epidemic.

[369 words]

On Coplans, Horsfield, Mapplethorpe and Hujar

1 John Coplans: Coplans was interested in photographing the human body in macro and in black and white and often worked in a highly abstract way. He would then bring these pieces of information together in grid formations (see links below and here: http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/coplans-self-portrait-frieze-no-2-four-panels-p78534/text-summaryhttps://www.theguardian.com/news/2003/sep/05/guardianobituaries.obituaries  (‘A major element in the fascination was an obsession with one of our few remaining taboos: the process of ageing and physical decrepitude. And with the anonymity of identity: in Coplans’s words, “To remove all references to my current identity, I leave out my head.” The blow-ups of sagging flesh, creased folds, odd protuberances and body hair of an old man become the documentary tale of the decline of Everyman’).
Craigie Horsfield’s large scale monochromatic portraiture: https://www.tate.org.uk/art/artists/craigie-horsfield-2318
Robert Mapplethorpe’s square format, black and white male nudes:http://www.mapplethorpe.org/portfolios/male-nudes/
I’ve given you several references on the theme of the male nude. [Write] a 500-word blog post on one that you think is particularly relevant for this assignment submission and upload this to your LL.

Asg.1 feedback
Back with Arms Above, 1984
John Coplans

I have always been drawn to Coplans work since first encountering it early in my study of EyV. This was, perhaps, inevitable given that his work is unique, making intriguing abstracts with his own body (which was about the same age as mine).
The Guardian obituary (Hopkinson, 2003), which I had not previously read, quotes Coplans as saying,

The principal thing is the question of how our culture views age: that old is ugly … Just think of Rodin, how he dealt with people of all ages. I have the feeling that I’m alive, I have a body … I can make it extremely interesting. That keeps me alive and vital. It’s a kind of process of energising myself by my belief that the classical tradition of art that we’ve inherited from the Greeks is a load of bullshit.

John Coplans, 2001, text for the, Self-Portraits, exhibition, quoted in his Guardian obituary

It is apposite, when considering my Asg.1 submission, that I paired my body with a Rodin sculpture. As if that were not enough, the obituary describes the instructions he left for dealing with his ashes, which bear a striking resemblance to the provisions in my own last will and testament, though in my case it was influenced by Dr. John Rebennack who carried the ashes of his friends with his mojo stick. [14May20 Coplans’ instructions for his ashes are shown here.]

E. Horsfield, Well Street,
East London,
March 1986
Craigie Horsfield

Regarding Horsfield, the Tate description states that ‘[his] approach to portraits and the nude is rooted in the traditions of painting’ (Tate, n.d.), though the Guardian (Jones, 2012) when reviewing a National Gallery exhibition, Seduced By Art, which paired paintings with photographs, described an untitled Horsfield hung next to Degas’ After the Bath (Woman Drying Herself), 1890-95 as ‘Grimly ponderous’ and ‘an elephant among elegance’.
In my view, Jones’ judgment is rather harsh. Horsfield’s nudes can be rather ungainly, but given his stated intention to (as quoted by the Tate) ‘describe … the human condition’, they do fulfil their purpose: many of us are ungainly. I cannot say that his work resonates with me, certainly not to the extent of Coplans.

Ron Simms, 1980
Robert Mapplethorpe

Martineau (2014, p.14) states that Mapplethorpe ‘tested the limits of the art form by staging a series of figure studies and hard-core sex pictures that destabilised the boundary between pornography and art’, citing Dennis Speight, N.Y.C., 1980, a torso shot of the subject’s erect penis. It should be borne in mind that this was a time of both the AIDS epidemic and some key victories for gay right movements and so Mapplethorpe’s motivations were presumably political as well as artistic. He continued to court controversy in the late 1980s with the publication of his X portfolio, depicting gay sadomasochism, leading to obscenity charges against the Cincinnati Contemporary Arts Centre (later acquitted). Davis (1991, p.75) suggests that Mapplethorpe’s use of black models is patronising and ignores the racial prejudice that minorities have suffered in the US throughout its history: while this may be the case, I suspect that again, Mapplethorpe’s intention was partly political and intended to reinforce the shock his work caused in some quarters.
As this essay assignment asks for my personal view on these works, my preference is for Mapplethorpe’s images of flowers, his straightforward portraits and his less controversial nudes: I do not see Mapplethorpe’s work as relevant to my work in general or my Asg.1 submission in particular.

Susan Sontag, 1975
Peter Hujar
Gary Schneider in Contortion (2), 1979
Peter Hujar

I have added Peter Hujar to this exercise as I have only recently discovered his work. One of his most famous pieces is Seated Nude, Bruce de Sainte Croix, 1976, in which the subject is brandishing an erection. As with Mapplethorpe above, Hujar was concerned with gay rights and was himself a victim of the AIDS epidemic, but my preference is for his other work, including his notable portrait of Sue Sontag.

[word count 633 + 369 = 1,002]


Barrett, T. (2000) Criticising photographs, an introduction to understanding images. 3rd ed. Mountain View, California: Mayfield Publishing.

Bate, D. (2016) Photography, the key concepts. London: Bloomsbury Publishing.

Bogre, M (2019) Documentary photography reconsidered. London: Bloomsbury Publishing.

Boothroyd, S (2017) Context and narrative. Barnsley: Open College of the Arts.

Bull, S. (2010) Photography. Abingdon,Oxon: Routledge.

Cooper, E (1995) Fully exposed: the male nude in photography. 2nd edn. London: Routledge.

Davis, M.D. (1991) Male nude in contemporary photography. Location: Temple University Press.

Furness, H. (2018) Royal Academy nudes to have ‘gender equality’ in new post-#metoo exhibition [online]. telegraph.co.uk. Available from https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2018/09/03/royal-academy-nudes-have-gender-equality-new-post-metoo-exhibition/ [Accessed 20 February 2020].

Hopkinson, A. (2003) John Coplans [online]. theguardian.com. Available from https://www.theguardian.com/news/2003/sep/05/guardianobituaries.obituaries [Accessed 20 February 2020].

Jones, J (2012) Seduced By Art: can photography and fine art hang together? [online]. theguardian.com. Available from https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2012/oct/30/seduced-by-art-national-gallery [Accessed 20 February 2020].

Martineau, P (2014) The nude in photography. Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum.

Dewe Matthews, C. (2013) Chloe Dewe Mathews: Shot at dawn [online]. shotatdawn.photography. Available from http://shotatdawn.photography/ [Accessed 10 February 2020].

Dewe Matthews, C. (2008)Hasidic Holiday [online]. chloedewemathews.com. Available from http://www.chloedewemathews.com/hasidic-holiday/ [Accessed 10 February 2020].

Warner Marion, M. (2012) 100 Ideas that changed photography. London: Laurence King Publishing.

Sorabella, J. (2008) The Nude in Western Art and Its Beginnings in Antiquity [online]. metmuseum.org. Available from https://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/nuan/hd_nuan.htm [Accessed 20 February 2020].

Tate (n.d.) E. Horsfield, Well Street, East London, March 1986 [online]. tate.org.uk. Available from https://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/horsfield-e-horsfield-well-street-east-london-march-1986-t06730 [Accessed 20 February 2020].

3. Blog

1. self portrait, early 1990s

This page is constructed from my early thoughts on the assignment, the diary entries and the blog that the diary became.

This is that alternatively-constructed diary.


first thoughts — The self portraits I admire most are those by John Coplans and Lee Friedlander, especially the former. I would not be surprised if one or the other influences this assignment.


Another idea is to imitate other s-ps by photographers. I am leaning towards what I have characterised as the male tendency in s-ps. [12Jul20] my thoughts on a gender disparity on approaches to self portraits are explores in the zine.]

Also, I happen to be listening to Ted Simon’s Jupiter’s Travels on audiobook at the moment. A relevant passage cropped up today,

In the oval, engraved mirror of a colonial dining car I actually take notice of my face for the first time in a long while. Action has freed me from self-consciousness and I am becoming a stranger to my own appearance. It is a very satisfying feeling. I no longer think of people seeing me as I see myself in a mirror. Instead, I imagine that people can see directly into my soul. It is as though a screen between me and the world has dropped away.

Ted Simon , Jupiter’s Travels, Chapter 4

23Feb20 – Catchup

The Coplans option was used up on Asg.1, leaving the intention to imitate other s-ps.

The initial candidates:

Manuel Álvarez Bravo
2. Manuel Álvarez Bravo, self portrait
3. Bill Brandt, self portrait (see below)
4. Stanley Kubrick, self portrait, 1949
© the artists, their agents or their estates

I am on the lookout for a large restaurant or bar mirror for a Kubrick (fig. 4) with a fallback position of using the bedroom.

The Álvarez Bravo (fig. 2) shouldn’t be difficult to imitate.

The Bill Brandt (fig. 3) , which I took to be a s-p is in fact a 1945 portrait by Laelia Goehr, but I still intend to imitate it. I had done some research on the camera in shot and found one on sale at antiq-photo.com [1], a French dealer who kindly sent me a set of (relatively) hi-res images from the sale. Some manipulation produced a usable image which was printed at 12″ and 16″ square with my Asg.1 shots (these were sent for printing on around 20th January). I think the 12″ will work.

On Feb 16th I became aware of Richard Avedon’s 1964 self portrait in which his face is half-masked by a portrait of James Baldwin (fig. 5) [2]. I bought a Jeremy Corbyn face mark on 17th Feb (£1.95 on ebay); Keir Starmer has sent me some leadership election material that includes a handsome B&W head shot; and I might get a print of another Avedon S-P (fig. 6) for this purpose when I print Asg.2.

Richard Avedon's 1964 self portrait
5. Richard Avedon self-portrait with James Baldwin, 1964
6. Avedon self-portrait,
© the artists, their agents or their estates

And here’s a site, found while looking for a decent copy of the Avedon,Top 10 Black and White Self Portraits by Famous Photographers [3]. I like the Ronis and Maier is possible. The Feininger is not a SP. And check out Daniel Castonguay on the same site – the nicest images I have seen in a long while.


Damn! I sent Asg.2 for printing yesterday and failed to include an Avedon s-p. The printing quality is not critical as the mask should be out of focus if it is to be an accurate recreation of the original, so my inkjet might do.

Coronavirus restrictions are in place for decrepit oldies such as the writer so this assignment will be photographed indoors.

The current prospects are Avedon (after fig. 5), Brandt (fig. 3), Álvarez Bravo (fig. 2), Kubrick (fig. 4) and Ronis (fig. 7).

Incidentally, the greatest self portrait of all time (and one of the greatest photographs period) is Ilse Bing’s of 1931 (fig. 8), but I recreated that for exercise 5.2 in EyV (fig. 9).

Autoportrait aux flashes
7. Willy Ronis, Autoportrait aux flashes, 1951
8. Ilse Bing, Self portrait with Leica, 1931
9. Nick Blackburn (i.e. me) self portrait with Fuji after Ilse Bing, 2019 (created for an EyV exercise)
© the artists, their agents or their estates

[12Jul2] This is where the blog meets the diary so some overlap of dates and contents occurs.


I consciously took a more organised approach to the assignments in C&N, having concluded that their completion and submission is the key to completing the course. Accordingly, I have pencilled-in possible approaches to each of them from the outset.

For self-portraiture, my to initial ideas were:
1, to be strongly influenced by John Coplans, but I have already used this in Asg.1,
2. To recreate some of the SPs of some well-known photographers shown on my page. I will go with this idea, Those already identified are Bill Brandt with his police camera (as it turns out, this was not a SP, but never mind; Stanley Kubrick’s youthful study using a large mirror; Álvarez Bravo’s self-effacing SP. To this can be added Avedon’s photo booth image and I’ll find a few others.

The assignment brief calls for a two-week diary to be kept as a starting point for this project. I will have to cheat on this instruction and reconstruct a retrospective, episodic diary showing how this idea developed.

[21Mar] conceptual development transferred to the diary page until today, when the first photography took place.

21st March, after Stanley Kubrick

I have not used the Fuji 100S for a while. 20 shots taken, some on (what I still call) motor drive, all of 3fps on the Fuji and some on 3 shot 1 stop bracket. At first sitting on the bed then, to get closer, sitting on a chair squeezed between the bed and the mirror. All on f/2 to de-emphasise the background. Shot in colour but only because I didn’t think to switch on mono.

Stanley Kubrick
10. Stanley Kubrick, self portrait, 1949 (repeat of fig. 4)
11, 13, 14. s-p after Kubrick 21st March
12. Vivian Maier, self portrait, n.d.
© the artists, their agents or their estates

My first outcome, fig.11, created from the last three shots HDR’ed in Affinity is rather good, although it made me think of Vivian Maier rather than Stanley Kubrick. Having added a Maier above (fig. 12) , I’m not sure why that was the case. There is a great gallery of Maier self portraits here: [4] she really was terrific.

I’ll run another shoot and — shave; straighten my tie; have the chair further from the mirror to get more in and to get the camera in focus too; take the picture down; maybe close the door – or perhaps not that last. And consider adding something interesting and distracting in the background (the cat was snoozing on the bed but, for once, did not join in).

Final conclusion of the day – continue to bracket.

22nd March, after Manuel Álvarez Bravo

I had always thought that fig. 15 was the full image. It was only when I looked fro a copy to print and take up the garden to shoot from this morning that I realised the full original was as fig. 16. No matter, I stayed with the original plan of putting a mirror in the window of the garden shed and imitating the crop. The image of me is less clear than anticipated because the window is dirtier than Álvarez Bravo’s, but I quite like the effect and may stick on this version – if I cleaned it, the spider web would have to go.

Manuel Álvarez Bravo
15, 16. Manuel Álvarez Bravo, self portrait, n.d. (repeat of fig. 2)
17-21. s-p after Álvarez Bravo, 22nd March
© the artists, their agents or their estates

Fig. 17 is a full frame 3-shot HDR bracket from B&W.
18 is a crop of 17.
19 and 20 are crops from single, RAW, colour images.
21, later that day, after further nurdling in Affinity (HDR) and Photoshop (Nik). That’s the keeper.

Theoretical considerations

Let’s take a moment away from the practicalities of taking these photographs and consider the act of self-portraiture and in particular the issue of authorship.

Bright and van Erp (2019, pp. 149-152) [5] deal with self-portraiture largely in the context of the contemporary social media selfie, usually taken in conformance with (gradually evolving) norms in order to gain acceptance and recognition within a group. This is contrasted with the ‘traditional self-portrait’ which was (and is) often made to establish or emphasise individuality.

Fig. 22 Outside Myself (Monument Valley), 1994, Tracey Emin

The example of Tracey Emin’s Outside Myself (Monument Valley), fig. 22, is considered.

In 1994 Emin, accompanied by her then boyfriend Carl Freedman, drove from San Francisco to New York, stopping to read from her book Exploration of the Soul which she delivered from an armchair taken for that purpose (Emin inherited the chair from her grandmother and had decorated it with sayings they shared and other text). The photograph is of one of those readings and it was taken by Freedman.

One of the points Bright and van Erp explore (p.152) is authorship and they conclude,

In many instances it does not matter who pressed the button, as it is the artist who has conceived the idea, and to whom credit must thus be given

 Bright and van Erp , p.152 [5]

The same consideration applies to some of Cindy Sherman’s Untitled Film Stills, where friends photographed the outdoors shots (MoMA [6]). Questions of authorship might also apply to the Bill Brandt image (fig. 3) where, although the portrait (that I originally mistook for a mirror self-portrait) is attributed to the photographer Laelia Goehr, the conception could have been Brandt’s.

I wanted to address this point, knowing that I would be shooting after Brandt the next day and anticipating (incorrectly, as it turned out) that I would not be pressing the shutter.

26th March, after Bill Brandt

Readers may recall that I ordered square prints of several sizes of a doctored image (sourced from a French dealer) of Bill Brandt’s police camera when printing Asg.1. The 12×12 print was stuck to cardboard yesterday and deployed today.

I used the Canon G5X because it has a reversible screen for selfies, nevertheless, although I managed to get the hands the right way round, I was looking in the wrong direction. No matter.

I assumed that I would feature Mrs. B on shutter control (hence the discussion of authorship), but I made do with the 10 second delay timer on the triple shot setting.

Bill Brandt
23. Bill Brandt, portrait by Laelia Goehr, 1945 (repeat of fig. 3)
24-26. s-p after Brandt, 26th March
© the artists, their agents or their estates

The first takes on the JPGs look quite successful with an application of Nik Silver Efex filters and then the colour filter for the grain and border. I think fig. 25, but a little lighter might run. And try for some eye detail.

The high-contrast, grainy look is intended to echo some of Brandt’s later work. I notice one cardboard edge is visible on the ‘camera’: I could claim that this is intentionally deconstructionist but that would not be accurate.

Fig27, s-p after Brandt, 26th March, fig. 25 reworked

[27Mar] I have reworked fig. 25 from Raw and disguised the cardboard edge. That will do for now. I believe it is the best of the three efforts so far (Kubrick, Bravo and Brandt). I would still like to brighten the eyes, though. Here’s a lesson an eye brightening (Patterson [7])

30th March, after Avedon & Kubrick

The Corbyn mask was too big: I could have scanned and reduced it, but just went with Starmer (fig. 32) and Avedon (fig. 31). It is difficult to take a photograph with just the right amount of lack of focus – I should have taken it in focus and then adjusted in post-processing. Nevertheless, they were pretty successful
I reshot after Kubrick (fig. 34) paying more attention to the background – a Missing Mondrian and accessorised De Stijl tie.

28-29. Preparations, 30th March
30. Richard Avedon self-portrait with James Baldwin, 1964
31. s-p with Richard Avedon after Avedon, 30th March
32 s-p with Keir Starmer after Avedon, 30th March
33. Stanley Kubrick, self portrait, 1949 (repeat of fig. 4)
34. s-p after Kubrick, 30th March
© the artists, their agents or their estates


[3Apr] I had my Asg.2 tutorial this morning and this reminded be that I should be putting more thought and research into these assignments. The comments above on Bright & van Erp, Emin, Sherman and Brandt go a considerable way to justify and contextualise my approach to the assignment, but I would like to broaden my consideration to what might have been.

I have already mentioned Vivian Maier as a possible target. I took down Sylvie Weil’s idiosyncratic Selfies [8] from the bookshelf (fig. 35) and found one of Maier’s finest S-Ps on the cover (fig. 36). Weil writes (in the Ros Schwarz translation),

She must have ‘cheated’ a little, and the photo is probably less spontaneous than it appears; the photographer must have asked the man to stand still for a moment…
I would have photographed myself standing in front of a large mirror being carried by two men wearing caps, seen in profile,

Sylvie Weil, Self-portraits in fugitive mirrors, Selfies, 2019, p.127-8

That led me to think of any number of silent films and subsequent comedies using the motif of two men with a large sheet of glass and the Harry Worth sketch in a shop window (fig. 37)

35. Sylvie Weil Selfies
36. Vivian Maier Self-Portrait, 1955
37. The Harry Worth Show, BBC TV, 1960s
© the artists, their agents or their estates

Given today’s tutorial and the discussions on security cameras, a modern take on this would be a selfie on a security screen – Lidl’s in Bromley have recently installed quite large monitor screens on each self-checkout till and they would be ideal for this purpose. This raises the question,

I wonder how long we students will be able to deploy the excuse, ‘well that’s what I would have photographed, were it not for virus restrictions’. I am currently in debt to the tune of one shot of the Crown Jewels for Asg.2 and now one shot on the security cameras in Lidl’s Bromley for Asg.3.

[14May20 see rework]

5th April, after Manuel Álvarez Bravo

Reshot in two sessions today after cleaning the window (well, rearranging the muck, really). Early when the window was still wet and again later. Bracketed both times. The last two without the mirror in place.

Manuel Álvarez Bravo
38. Manuel Álvarez Bravo, self portrait, n.d. (repeat of fig. 2)
39-44. s-p after Álvarez Bravo, 22nd March
© the artists, their agents or their estates

I am still not particularly satisfied with the outcome in terms of the clarity of the reflection, though they are better than the first round. A second clean might be needed and wait for it to dry. Use the mirror.


[5Apr] Thoughts have turned to presentation and I will gather them here. The instructions say, ‘[s]end your finished piece’, perhaps implying a single image. That will not do. I might pick a single one as the best of the bunch (criteria?), but they are all going in in some form. I have been toying with the idea of a collage and played with one today for the source images. I have included the Bing (which I homaged in EyV) as no collection of S-Ps can stand without it and perhaps I should have included a Maier too as that will by the (sort of) inspiration for my eventual rework, shop window => shop security camera for the current age (note to self, Maier took one in a security mirror – I have it to hand and will work it in – [6Apr] now shown as figs. 46 and 47 – it was on show at the Huxley-Parlour Gallery in Piccadilly last year). [14May20 see rework]
Photoshop Elements offer an easy, albeit somewhat cheesy, collage (I used it for part of an EyV submission) and here it is as fig. 45.

Sources, collage.
45. Sources, collage.
46-47. Vivian Maier, Self-Portrait, 1961 and detail
© the artists, their agents or their estates

8th and 9th April, after Willy Ronis

It will take a few sessions to get this right. The basic idea is there but framing the shot in darkness is tricky and I think I need a reflector to even the lighting. Nevertheless it was quite fun.

None of tonight’s shots will make the cut, but I include examples as a reference point. The final versions will, of course, be B&W.

Autoportrait aux flashes
48. Willy Ronis, Autoportrait aux flashes, 1951 (repeat of fig. 7)
49. s-p After Willy Ronis, 8th April, full frame
50. s-p After Willy Ronis, 8th April, after processing
51. s-p After Willy Ronis, 9th April, daylight test setup
52. s-p After Willy Ronis, 9th April, selected, processed
© the artists, their agents or their estates

[10Apr] I had a quick look at the send night’s shots last night and did not think much of them but changed my mind when processing them today. The high ceiling and small sensor (the Canon G5X is the only camera I have a flash cable for) and an aperture of f/7 resulted in an ISO of 10,000 and a pleasing overlay of digital ‘grain’.

10th April, after Manuel Álvarez Bravo

[10Apr] I washed the window again, inside and out, and chose the largest camera body to hand. These are much better.

Manuel Álvarez Bravo
53. Manuel Álvarez Bravo, self portrait, n.d. (repeat of fig. 2)
54. s-p after Álvarez Bravo, 10th April
55. Shadow s-p after Maier, 10th April
© the artists, their agents or their estates

I had forgotten what a pleasant camera to use a Nikon DLSR is and so took it on today’s walk. I found an ‘after Maier’ shadow (I photographed the feather, then noticed the shadow and zoomed out again to take that) which will do until I can get the security device shot promised for the Corona Image Deficit.

I think my work here is done.

Presentation II

[11Apr] This is due in at the end of April. We are currently in Coronavirus lockdown, so I’m not sure what assignment delivery options will be operative then: let’s assume everything will be done online for the foreseeable future — I have been sending physical prints since early EvY so there is a retrograde learning curve to be followed and inserted here.

I intend to print Asg.3 as though it were to be submitted thus in the hope that we will be back to physical prints by the time of final assessment. I’m not clear either on whether the submission is supposed to be one image or several , but here’s my plan:

  • In addition to the submission text, write a project introduction, including mention of the temporary delivery arrangements, where I sourced the technical requirements and a reference to Bing.
  • Mention the Corona Image Deficit but state that the project is regarded as complete and can stand on its own merits.
  • As with Asg.2, there will be a header image, probably fig. J1, but it would be my Bing, fig. 62, EyV Exc. 5.2 if that were not self plagiarism.
  • The submission text, 300 words
  • My copy of Laelia Goehr’s 1945 portrait of Bill Brandt, as (entirely subjectively) the most successful outcome, fig. 63.
  • The others, figs. 64-68.
  • A pdf of this development page
  • Mention of and links to the matters arising from Asg.2, i.e. rework and essays, but I will not bother to send those as the equivalents were not mentioned in the last tutorial.
  • All the new images below (J60-61, 63-68) will be printed for the final assessment.
Asg 3
60. Summary of source material
61. Summary of outcomes
62. from EyV Exc. 5.2, Self portrait with Fuji after Ilse Bing, July 2019, image ref. EyV#67
63. self portrait after Laelia Goehr’s 1945 portrait of Bill Brandt, March 2020
64. self portrait after undated Manuel Álvarez Bravo self portrait, April 2020
65. self portrait after 1949 Stanley Kubrick, self portrait, March 2020
66. self portrait after Willy Ronis, ‘Autoportrait aux flashes’, 1951, April 2020
67. self portrait after unspecified Vivian Maier shadow self portrait, April 2020
68. self portrait with Keir Starmer after Richard Avedon’s ‘self-portrait with James Baldwin’, 1964, March 2020

Assessment criteria & Reflection

These are covered in the zine.


1. antiq-photo.com (2020) Wide angle KODAK View Camera / Bill Brandt [online]. antiq-photo.com. Available from https://www.antiq-photo.com/en/collections/museum/cameras/large-format-cameras/wide-angle-kodak-view-camera-bill-brandt/ [Accessed 23 February 2020].

2. Thrasher, S.W. (2017) James Baldwin and Richard Avedon’s divided states [online]. theguardian.com. Available from https://www.theguardian.com/books/2017/nov/16/baldwin-nothing-personal?CMP=Share_iOSApp_Other [Accessed 23 February 2020].

3. monovisions.com (2015) Top 10 Black and White Self Portraits by Famous Photographers [online]. monovisions.com. Available from https://monovisions.com/top-10-black-and-white-self-portraits-by-famous-photographers/ [Accessed 23 February 2020].

4. vivianmaier.com (2020) Vivian Maier [online]. vivianmaier.com. Available from. http://www.vivianmaier.com/gallery/self-portraits/ [Accessed 12 July 2020].

5. Bright, S. & van Erp, H (2019) Photography decoded. London: Ilex.

6. MoMA (n.d.) Untitled Film Still #21 [online]. moma.org. Available from https://www.moma.org/learn/moma_learning/cindy-sherman-untitled-film-stills-1977-80/ [Accessed 26 March 2020].

7. Patterson, S. (n.d.) How To Lighten And Brighten Eyes With Photoshop CC And CS6 [online]. photoshopessentials.com. Available from https://www.photoshopessentials.com/photo-editing/lighten-brighten-eyes-photoshop/ [Accessed 27 March 2020].

8. Weil, S. (2015) Selfies. Translated by R. Schwarz, 2019. London: Les Fugitives.

1. Submission

[25Jan20] Submission text

I interpreted this project as the illustration of contrasts. My intention at first was to shoot Worshipping Gods, depicting ostentatious Christian interior detail and an austere (or alternatively elaborate) other faith. This foundered when, having photographed Southwark Cathedral, I failed to find a synagogue, mosque or temple that allows interior photography.

With little time remaining for an alternative project, I opted for subjects offering availability and chose Representing Bodies, comparing details of V&A human sculpture to my own body. While working at the V&A, I thought that concentrating on a single work might offer clarity and having toyed with the idea of using Canova’s Three Graces, chose Rodin’s St John the Baptist.

By this time, I had moved some distance from the original assignment brief which specified ‘images…taken from real life’.

I printed the images both in colour and in black and white and decided to submit the latter. This allows concentration on the differences and similarities of form, without the distraction of colour (and incidentally sidesteps issues with colour casts).

Technically, they are reasonably competent. The images are rather darker than intended when printed, especially the black and white versions, and I will try to adjust for that in future assignments. The project idea was interesting conceptually and also in practical terms to execute. I realised throughout that I had drifted from the assignment brief. This cannot be an original idea, although I have not found anything like it online. After finishing the shooting, I found in Marcoci’s The Original Copy (2010) a juxtaposition from Lorraine O’Grady’s Miscegenated Family Album series featuring a human portrait with an Egyptian statue of Nefertiti’s sister. I believe that the project concept is stronger (and closer to the brief) than my first effort and, O’Grady’s work notwithstanding, might merit further exploration.

Marcoci, R (2010) The Original Copy: Photography of sculpture, 1839 to today. New York: MoMA.

[word count 300]