Assignment 1: Combined Image

Response to Tutor Feedback on Assignment 1

Initial feedback was via a Skype tutorial. I wasn’t too sure at first because I was worried that I might mishear/forget comments through concentrating too hard on the listening.  However, my tutor said right at the start not to make notes because she would be confirming her feedback to me in writing.  I felt immediately relaxed and engaged  in our conversation  so it was a brilliant start to this new relationship.


I will give you pointers on how to further develop your studio work (concentrating specifically on the aspects of your work that I think are most successful and/or promising. I’ll also give you recommendations on other artist photographers whose work is particularly relevant in the context of your work produced in support of assignment 1

References suggested:

Other photographers who use flowers in their work:

Use of archival material:

‘Queen and Country’ by Steve McQueen

Suggested reading/viewing:

“The Decisive Moment and Experimental Photography” (Aperture)

You have experimented widely with your images submitted in support of your final assignment, which is very much in the spirit of the course, which favours experimentation in the medium. For me, the images that work best and have the most potential are the ones in which you have mixed archival material (in this case, monochrome portraiture of a WW1 soldier) with real object (poppies). In this image I like the way that you begin to play with scale (the enormous flower heads set against the small portrait etc.) and I think that it might be worthwhile to pursue these experiments with a combination of found image and object. One small point, I would crop the image right in to the side of the image itself – no white border in other words and also experiment with perhaps using many more flowers to almost obliterate the image/meaning. Don’t feel afraid to experiment – almost to the point that the image collapses – as it is often only through this way of rigorously exploring all avenues – that good work emerges.

Your exercises are very well thought through and thorough, Catherine. Particularly good was your experimentation in support of Exercise 1.1, I think you’re moving in an interesting direction with your layered and infrared-infused landscapes.  Keep the experimentation going throughout. Consider keeping a sketch book for this course (if you don’t already) where you can re-copy, sample, appropriate, rescale, re-photograph, paste and play with images without needing to perfect them


I experienced the session as constructive, supportive and very encouraging. particularly the encouragement to continue to experiment with found images and objects. still-lifes and symbols.  I wrote a reflection on the first assignment process before the video session and experimentation was one of the areas I highlighted – that and the fact that I feel like a butterfly sometimes in trying something out and then moving swiftly on to something else instead of consolidating learning and experience. I was able to talk of how I always think I don’t know enough/haven’t enough skill so get frustrated to which my tutor’s response was along the lines of this is how artists develop and for every successful/creative Image one sees there are probably hundreds of failed experiments lying around the artist’s studio. So true and I still keep forgetting this.

I have now followed-up the references and a PDF of my notes is here, including Brendan Fowler, another interesting photographer.

Notes on artists referenced in Ass 1 feedback

It’s not so much the technique (although I am interested in this of course) but why a particular technique is being used. The references form a creative bridge between Part One and Part Two and I’m already thinking of strategies that could work.  My motto will be experiment widely but then use a technique in a focussed way for a specific purpose.

The feedback has reassured me that I’m on the right lines and I feel enthusiastic about continuing on to Part Two of this Module.






Reflection on Assignment 1


I was slow in starting which worried me at first but then I reassured myself that the same happened with my previous Modules and the process is something like visiting a new place and having to orientate myself to all its spaces. The larger the place the longer it takes and, after all, I’m now on level Two.  I’ve recently been told that I have a cataract in my left eye that needs to be dealt with. It has affected my sight to some extent and my eyes get tired more easily so I have to make sure to spend less time on the computer.

I’ve found Part One so interesting and have acquired yet more books. It was helpful a s well that ‘constructing’ an image isn’t a new concept to me as I was introduced to this in my previous Module Context and Narrative. As ever, I’ve been pleased to have the support from OCA Thames Valley Group meetings, individual OCA friendships and a new network of other students studying this Module..

Assignment 1 : The Combined Image

Demonstration of Technical and Visual Skills

This Assignment enabled me to experiment with new approaches. I’ve written previously about my reluctance to engage with cut and paste photomontage here  and the struggle I had given the political context. I’m pleased that I did find a way through because I enjoyed the process even though it strained my eyes. I really did get to understand how it can be used by actually creating some montages and, now that I have broken through the resistance, have begun to think of ways in which I might be able to use it with my personal archive and, possibly, any remakes I might create following feedback from my tutor on Assignment 1.  I took them to a recent TV Group meeting and so was able to talk in more depth on the ideas behind the montages.  I still don’t like the thought of cutting into photographs of people though.

Having played with the notion of medium format film before I’m now taking it more seriously since I acquired the old Mamiya 7 and want to continue improving with this. My colleague Stephanie gave me the idea of layering negative over print and I added to this by buying a small lightbox to see how it made a difference.

I have already created work in the environment using found objects in my previous Module and felt pleased to continue along those lines with this Assignment.  What was new was the montage of real flowers and negatives over prints and also experimenting with painting on my iPad. I forgot to note in my Assignment write-up that I also took my iPad onto the field, showing the poppy painting I created. Unfortunately the bright day made the painting almost invisible and so I didn’t include an image of it in my write-up. One other strategy that came to mind was to take an actual frame into the field to frame some poppies but I didn’t get to this due to being concerned about late submission.

One thing I have yet to do is to edit the short videos I took with my iPhone and I will add this to the blog later. My intention is to experiment with inset stills and videos running side by side.  There’s so much I want to learn.

Quality of Outcome

I think I am competent at communicating my ideas in writing, blog post layout and image placement.  On this occasion the Assignment has been presented to my tutor in digital format only. I do have prints available though as seeing my work in print is important to me. I need to touch what I have created.

Demonstration of Creativity

I tried new ways of producing images in this Assignment – film, layering negatives, montaging real flowers and iPad painting –  and I think each worked in its own way. Given the way I was feeling and my personal situation I think I took care of myself by creating work in my safe place – the external landscape.  Even so I have attempted some new ideas. Whilst using poppies as a metaphor for some beginning thoughts on transience and mortality.


I have reflected on learning and reading through Part One and collected photographer examples for my paper log. The Assignment itself has been more personal than theoretical in approach and I am aware that I have referenced photographers rather than theory, although I have referenced relevant websites in the PDF about poppies as remembrance.

I was aware of that strong undercurrent in me of the linkage of poppies with War and my hatred of war and that I attempted to avoid  expressing this in the Assignment. .  I think as well that this might come through with later work for this Module when I do more work on my personal archive. I was born during WWII and believe that I absorbed some of my young mother’s anxieties during this time and transmuted them into a core belief that the environment cannot be completely trusted.


I took longer than intended in completing Part One but I do think that time was necessary for me to ground myself in this new Module that introduces new lines of thought and, at Level Two, requires more theoretical and conceptual understanding.


Assignment 1: Combined Image

Assignment 1 : Combined Image

The Assignment brief

Produce a series of four to six images – either portraits or landscape images based on my immediate surroundings. The images should include

  • traditional ‘montage’ using found images and/or ones I’ve shot myself, then re-photographed and presented as a digital file
  • Digital montage of images I have shot myself


The seeds of this project were planted on 8th June this year as we drove down the A3 towards Southampton where we were due to board the early morning ferry to Le Havre and then travel on to stay in Honfleur for a few days. As we drove along, I announced that there were two things I would like to photograph with my newly acquired medium format camera once we arrived in France – some cows, because they’re a different colour in France and also some wild poppies. I never did get to photograph either there because every time I spotted some they were either too far away or traffic behind us was too close for us to stop. When we returned home I was very pleased to discover that there were two fields of them nearby and I decided they would be an excellent subject for my re-making of an existing work of Art (as per Exercise 1:2)   where I had decided to reference work by David Hockney but through photography in the landscape rather than a still life of a vase of flowers


There are many different species of poppy, from the oriental poppy – large, flamboyant often with frilly double flowers to the wild, red-flowered poppy that grows as a ‘weed’ here and other parts of Europe . There’s also the opium poppy of course. Poppies have different meaning as symbols in different countries. Chinese art associates them with loyalty and faith between lovers, whilst in Greek and Roman myths they were used as offerings to the dead. Poppies have long been used as symbols of sleep, peace and death – sleep because of the opium they can contain and death because of their blood-red colour. In this country they are an emblem of remembrance and commemoration of those killed in conflict (see The poppy as a symbol of sacrifices made in past wars)

Wild poppies, for me, are a beautiful metaphor for the fragility of the physical body and the eternal cycle of life and death. They are delicate, translucent, paper thin and soon die when removed from the soil. Fields of them suddenly seem to appear in late Spring/early Summer – in abundance one day, dying off the next, but reappearing a few days later. They have a simple pleasing shape that is easy even for a child to draw or paint. I could crumple some red tissue paper, place a black button in the middle and, probably, others (at least in this country) would recognise that this is meant to be a poppy.

I visited the fields on several occasions with both film and digital camera and, between-times, looked at the ways in which some other artists and photographers had portrayed poppies. Claude Monet had captured the tranquillity of a walk through a poppy field. Vincent Van Gogh  painted vases of them.  Cornelia Parker lined the War room at the Whitworth Gallery with leftover sheets of red paper from the factory that creates the Remembrance Day poppies . Georgia 0’Keefe chose to portray the oriental poppy – lush, bold, sensual   My preference is to photograph poppies in colour but both Karl Blossfeldt  and Irving Penn  had captured the structure and form of poppy heads in wonderful sculptural detail in black + white.

The Process

My intention was to photograph the poppies in the field then create prints to take back to the fields and re-photograph. I used my new (to me) Mamiya medium format camera plus Canon DSLR. Inspired by David Hockney I also attempted iPad painting – printing the results firstly on watercolour paper but then using Somerset paper instead as the watercolour prints looked too muddy. I now have a tuition book and intend to teach myself more on iPad drawing and painting because I am so intrigued by it.

Subsequently, after looking at Stephen Gill’s Hackney Flowers,  I created montages with some cut flowers on the prints and then re-photographed.  Some of the poppies are now being dried. In memory of my great-uncle I also created a poppy montage with a photograph of him in uniform.

I had also thought of using double-exposure and also an infra-red converted digital camera I have but, in the event, decided that I was likely only doing this for the sake of it rather than to discover my relationship with these poppies.  I have also returned to the fields and created a video but this will come later as it needs to be edited.

Mamiya Medium Format Film Camera


Composite Print with overlay of negative



I placed the negatives on a light box to photograph them so that some of the image could be seen more clearly, and then placed them over the prints to rephotograph.

Although the negatives were developed from the film the rest of the process became digital as I do not have access to a darkroom myself and had asked for the negatives to be scanned to disc so I could process them in Photoshop. Even so they do have a different quality from images produced by a digital camera. On-screen and as prints they reminded me much more of impressionist paintings, especially where the exposure was probably that bit too low to ‘still’ the poppies as they waved occasionally in the breeze.

iPad painting










Digital Photographs












Re-Photographing prints in the Field


Montage of cut flowers with prints

The poppies with the photograph of my young great-uncle, standing proudly in his uniform, may seem out of place here amongst the other photographs. However, poppies as remembrance are fixed so firmly in my psyche through upbringing and cultural history that, as much as I tried, I have been unable to push away the contrast between the beautiful, delicate living flowers and all those killed in the name of war. I remember being taken as a child to see the 1930s version of the  film All Quiet at the Western Front and I’m guessing that this was probably an event around the time of a Remembrance day.  In this film the soldier is shot whilst reaching out to a butterfly. It could as well have been a wild poppy.


Final Selection

I chose six images.




One thing I quickly realised about photographing poppies is that they are so light that even the slightest breeze sets them moving.  Wonderful for impressionistic images (particularly with film) but less so if I was looking for realism.  What I quickly found was that this project was becoming a quest to capture the reality of a beautiful sea of poppies that was never quite satisfied as whatever I produced couldn’t possibly be the same as being there in that space seeing their beauty and breathing in the scent of the grass and other flowers that were around me.

As I moved from film to digital to the iPad during the Assignment process  I recognised I was both exploring the medium of photography – as document and also fine art – whilst moving through history – a one hundred year old photograph, 1990s medium format film camera, modern digital camera and iPad. The old photograph was taken in a studio, but the first World War also saw a boom in camera sales, peaking in 1917, as Parents, siblings and wives wanted to have a photograph of their husband/son/brother as he went off to fight. Nowadays I imagine that there are many similar photographs created as selfies, posted on Facebook and other sites. The medium may have changed but the motivation is the same.

Overall Reflection to follow.