Assignment 2 submission : The Archive


Produce a series of related images that use a readily available online archive (or archives) as their starting point or subject.
Make a small book containing a minimum of 12 double pages for this project, using proprietary software, to be viewable online.
Provide a link to where my tutor can view the book
Also provide a few double-page spreads as still images as part of my learning log.

My Assignment Proposal (see here)  centred on my personal archive of specific letters from my father to me and photographs from the mid to late 1940’s.  At the time I only knew my excitement of having the letters read out to me. My other personal memories of that time are more like a faded video that stops and starts, occasionally sticking on more vivid events such as my father coming home on leave bringing Turkish delight, sugared almonds, some perfume in a blue bottle, and watching him make me a sledge for me.  With the letters and photographs as primary evidence I decided to do some research to gain more sense of the background context  During preparation for the Assignment, in addition to relevant books, I also accessed some online archives of Sheffield during WWII and other websites containing recollections from those living in Sheffield and/or serving in the Armed Forces in Egypt.  – what was it like for people in Sheffield in those times just before and after the end of the war; what was it like being in an Army camp somewhere out in the desert and far away from home? I also hoped that the research would give me some ‘distance’ from items that are precious to me, to overcome my inhibitions about disturbing my memories in some way so that I could be more objective about their meaning – an anxiety I wrote about here. It wasn’t that I would necessarily utilize the information in a practical sense but that my imagination, empathy – call it what you will – would be enhanced on the one hand, yet, alongside this, I hoped I would also be able to gain more detachment within a ‘researcher’ role.

The more I looked at the letters the more I realised that those loving sentences also contained some clear messages as to what ‘being a good girl’ meant which could only have been doubly reinforced by listening to my mother’s voice as she read them to me.  There are no letters existing from my mother to my father. I’m presuming she wrote some because my father makes references to being told about what was happening. I’m wondering what happened to them. The photographs she sent to him usually have a very brief note on the back .  I was, therefore, left with some queries and gaps and I hope that the way I have sequenced the book may provide some narrative on this. In this sense I guess I could be called ‘an unreliable narrator’  (although I prefer the term ‘fallible narrator’) – there are facts but the truth is my truth.  At this point in time I have ended the book with myself and some words that have resonated with me all my life. It is a punctuation point really as I’m viewing the book as a work in progress pending feedback from my tutor and student colleagues.  The book’s title is an interim one for the same reasons.  A further post will outline my process creating the book (with some critical self-analysis) and provide some contextual background and references.

Letters Home

PDF of book   LettersHome

or it can be accessed on the Blurb site :


Some double page spreads as jpegs

lettershome_page_12-web lettershome_page_13-web

lettershome_page_18-web lettershome_page_19-web





lettershome_page_22-web lettershome_page_23-web 




lettershome_page_30-web lettershome_page_31-web





  1. Great work Catherine, the book is so lovely to view and has such a personal meaning for you . It represents a not so distant past in a beautifully evocative way . I like how you have touched on expected behaviour too in a subtle way , well done.


  2. A very very interesting book with so much that is both different from my family history but similar. I particularly liked the fact that your dad had sent letters to you – wonderful. The back dust cover is particularly powerful locating you dad via the map/photo and I particularly liked all the little social references contained within the book.


    1. I’m pleased you found it interesting Pete. I haven’t got much really from the 1940s so the letters and photographs are very important to me. It isn’t a large book but I did so much thinking on how to present it all – sizing and placement of images; what went best where.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I really enjoyed looking at the book and particularly the repeated poses and water images. The additional material using adverts and the tea time drawing really add to the narrative. Well done and am looking forward to seeing it develop. You’ve also given me some more ideas for my own family history work too so many thanks for these too !


    1. Thank you Teresa and I’m pleased I gave you some ideas well.
      Are you going to be writing anything about the South Hill Park workshops? I’ve kept wondering how you’re getting if. If not, I hope you can tell me some time.


  4. So here goes and sorry its taken some time to respond…
    You asked for feedback on the sequencing so I have (largely) restricted this response to that area, however I have considered the images at times – couldn’t really stop myself…
    On the introduction I think just the first para would suffice, the second para has a certain superfluity about it, in relation to the narrative that I discerned and is perhaps a bit directive? I wonder about the images being quite rigid within the frame, orthogonal, when perhaps some of the imagery – the letters perhaps? – might work more haptic within the frame. Pages 12 & 13 seem to be a perfect disjuncture when you enter the narrative, however the previous two page spread has ‘upstaged’it somewhat.
    The words, in the letters and the ‘Darling” on p.26 seem large – in the parlance of social media a little ‘shouty’ – I know I’m straying into the imagery as regards sequencing, but I think they might work smaller? Just a thought. And the back cover image is such a good image that I wonder if it is wasted in its current position – maybe as an afterword within the body of the book?

    And then finally, in respect of the narrative, I particularly liked this “The more I looked at the letters the more I realised that those loving sentences also contained some clear messages as to what ‘being a good girl’ meant which could only have been doubly reinforced by listening to my mother’s voice as she read them to me.” They may have been, as I’m sure you realised when you wrote those words, a message to your mother and that central ambiguity is the core strength of the work for me.


    1. Thanks for your considered feedback John, which gives me more to think about.

      Could you say more on what you mean by ‘haptic’ in the frame as I don’t quite understand because orthogonal is to do with shape/form whereas ‘haptic’ relates to touch?

      I did ponder over the sizing on page 26 (the image is the back of a photograph) and how it should be in relation to the image on page 27. I can certainly reduce it in the book, yet the words do actually take up quite a space on the back of the photograph, maybe making a ‘firm’ declaration. I think I’ll have a better idea as well when the draft book arrives.

      I agree about the back image and will re-consider this after speaking with my tutor as well. There are these inter-connecting strands and I think I keep entering into a family dynamic which influences my editing.


  5. What I meant by haptic was about the documents seem either placed -orthogonal, with great precision, or haptic, having the feeling of just being looked at and allowed to find their place on the page.
    I take your point about the sizing on the photograph, however it’s size within YOUR book is under your control, it’s strength or weakness will be determined by the weight you decided to provide it. There’s no right or wrong about it, in my view, but it’s reception will be greatly determined by how and where you place it on the page.
    Hope this helps.


    1. Now I understand – having been looking again at Christian Patterson’s book. Will know better on sizing when the printed book arrives. I wanted people to be able to read the writing in the letters – it’s easier on a monitor because the image can be enlarged but not in a book, except for using a magnifying glass. Thanks again for your feedback.

      Liked by 1 person

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