Research and Reflection

6. Wim Wenders Exhibition 10th November 2017

 Wim Wenders” “Instant Stories” at The Photographers’ Gallery, London

 I have recently been experimenting with a Polaroid camera (re-furbished Polaroid Impulse 600, 1988-1992). There’s something fascinating for me about the instant film prints with their slight softness and more muted colours so there was no way I wanted to miss this Exhibition (on until 11th February 2018)

This is an Exhibition of over 200 old Polaroids taken between the early 1970s and the mid 1980s, mainly with Wenders’ SX-70 at a time when he was building his career as a film-maker.  He is exhibiting them now not so much through nostalgia but because he believes they have a relevance to lessons for the present, “Polaroids remind us of an innocence, of a different attitude toward the world and toward the act of taking pictures…..There was some sort of testimony in these Polaroids that I thought could be interesting to oppose to our present culture of instant picture-taking.”  (Eoin Murray, 2 November 2017, in BJP online). For him then it was concerned with some feeling of awe holding something one-of-a-kind and I agree with that because even though they can be scanned or re-photographed it still doesn’t take away the fact that the polaroid image itself is unique. So far I’ve found that despite the virtues of Photoshop it still hasn’t been possible to reproduce the particular feel and look of the instant prints.

Wenders differentiates between the spontaneity of creating the Polaroid print that he experienced in those early days and the more serious, concentrated act of creating a photograph – its ‘more painterly aspects’. Now that does sound nostalgic to me and a nostalgia for his more youthful past, especially as he doesn’t want to use a modern Polaroid-type camera, despite being given a new One Step 2 camera recently.

In the interview with Murray, Wenders refers to the efforts that photographers make nowadays to capture ‘truth’ – the picture they take being exactly as they saw the scene, because of the loss of belief in photography being a ‘truth-based medium’. I think that, somehow, he is conflating what he sees as the ‘honesty’ of the instant print because it’s a one-and-only, with a search for reproducing reality as we see it.  As much as I enjoy using my Polaroid camera I don’t really think that the prints carry a truth concerning what I saw through its lens. I need to hold that though because it fits with my preparation for Assignment 4.

 As I walked round the Exhibition I was struck by the presentation of the prints, in box frames as if precious. Mainly small of course so that I had to walk right up to have a look and then I wished I could hold the actual prints in my hands. I was struck by the way in which Wenders had used the polaroids as a visual diary, trying out ideas for films, capturing a moment, meeting, event – pretty much similar to the way I use my iPhone.

I resisted buying the book but succumbed after a few days.  It is beautifully presented – large, heavy blue linen cover with a ‘polaroid’ print on the cover which is slightly skew-whiff and adds to the evocation of the spontaneity of a polaroid print.  According to his text (p.12) the polaroids came to light during the archiving of all materials connected with his film work and photography and they were found in wooden boxes from his cigar smoking days.  There are many more polaroids within the book than in the Exhibition (403) and these are ordered not by theme but as ‘stories’ in the form of short stories and haikus which have been printed with an ‘old’ typewriter font to add to the aesthetic of nostalgia and memory. I was intrigued about the pages containing photographs because whereas the pages appear matte, the photographs themselves often have a very slight gloss on them as if they had been stuck on, yet they haven’t. I was disappointed that there’s no information at the end of the book, or in the publisher’s website, concerning the font or the paper. The title page also  mentions the inclusion of seven photographs created by Annie Leibovitz from Annie Leibovitz Archive Project #1: The Early Years   but page numbers are not noted and, so far, I haven’t found any captions naming them.

 Not mentioned in the Exhibition but a note for myself here that  Wim Wenders has also produced two 3D films  “Pina” 2012 is about the German choreographer Pina Bausch

and “Everything Will Be Fine”  exploring the effects of the death of a child in an accident. These films appear to be stereo 3D as opposed to anaglyph 3D.


Wenders, W (2017) Instant Stories, London, Thames & Hudson


Beginning – Thinking about the Digital Self

Thanks to my fellow student Julie  for introducing me to the phrase ‘digital native’ – used as early as 1996 and then popularized by Mark Prensky . Prensky’s view was that there is a distinction between the young ‘digital natives and older people, who he termed ‘Digital Immigrants’ .

“The importance of the distinction is this: As Digital Immigrants learn – like all immigrants, some better than others – to adapt to their environment, they always retain, to some degree, their “accent,” that is, their foot in the past. The “digital immigrant accent” can be seen in such things as turning to the Internet for information second rather than first, or in reading the manual for a program rather than assuming that the program itself will teach us to use it. Today’s older folk were “socialized” differently from their kids, and are now in the process of learning a new language. And a language learned later in life, scientists tell us, goes into a different part of the brain.”  (M. Prensky 2001).

According to this piece there are also ‘Digital Settlers’ – those there at the start and ‘Digital Immigrants’ who learned how to use e-mail and social networks late in life..

Prensky’s view was that young “digital natives’” brains have physically changed as a result of the digital revolution. I know much has been written about the negative effects of the digital revolution on young minds – unable to spell; short attention spans; needing information in short bites only;, unable to engage in a group because they are always checking their phones and shutting themselves off from ‘normal’ human intercourse; cyber-bullying etc. There are positives though, many children and adolescents learn to balance their use of digital media with both physical and interpersonal activities. One study, ”A Day in the Digital Life of Teenagers” spent a year of fieldwork  looking at the lives of 28 teenagers and the researcher was encouraged by how well they managed digital devices and content and concluded that these have become teenagers’ way of ‘asserting their agency’.

My eight year old grandson, a ‘digital native’ born into the age of digital – deep into the world of ‘Minecraft’. What I really noticed was, whereas I could only pretty much see large, blurry pixels, he was very engaged in building a world for himself; a non-competitive world at that, Whereas I would need an image, a sentence of description in a book – even a word, written or spoken, his brain has learned to build a world using a few pixels.  From there he will often move to his lego collections, building scenarios, creating animated videos. His use of the digital world is just one of his many other activities.

Photographer Wendy McMurdo’s project used photography, film and moving image to explore how the use of online building games impacted on identity formation in children and ‘to bring together the invisible world of data with the concrete world of ‘things’, through merging photography and 3D rendering techniques. I’ve kept thinking about ‘Minecraft’ and how, to me, those pixel blocks provide an external, visual representation of the networking of our brain cells as they manipulate data to form ideas and constructs. This reminds me of the theories of Marshall McCluhan in the 1960s and his writing on the effect of printing on the way people perceived their world.

A recent Aeon article refers to ’the extended mind’ whereby memories, thoughts, perceptions extend beyond the body to algorithmically mediated objects, databases and networks”. Our brains adapt just as they adapt to reading the symbols that comprise the alphabet, or music, or, in my case, learning shorthand. I don’t think of it as one thing or another but as an accretion of knowledge and skill.   Simon Jenkins wrote an article in The Guardian   (2 Feb 2017) noting that sales of old-fashioned vinyl records have soared to a 25 year peak (I should add that we have some and they are digitally re-mastered to provide enhanced sound), printed books are recovering ground from e-readers, plus there is more questioning of the negative effects of the internet. Jenkins suggests that we are now heading for ‘post-digital’, employing new technology as a servant and not as a master.

I was born into a world where few people had telephones and there was no television. News was from the radio, newspapers or Pathe News at cinema visits – obviously old. I consider myself to be a ‘digital settler’ being there at the start of the digital revolution and welcoming computers – maybe because I already knew how to type with all my fingers!  Also, to my mind, it maybe isn’t so much of an ‘age’ thing but the degree of  aptitude/orientation, i.e. some people are better at reading maps than others because their spatial skills are more developed. I’m writing this in hope because I still can’t follow those pixel blocks in ‘Minecraft’, let alone work my way building a website – yet!


Reflection on Assignment 3: Critical Essay

Reflection on Assignment  3: Critical Essay 


Before reflecting on the Assignment I need to acknowledge what has been happening for me since I started this Module. Basically I’ve had health problems – not serious ones but ones  that affected my ability to concentrate.  Firstly I waited months to have a cataract in my left eye dealt with and then more months to have my gall bladder removed after been taken to hospital A&E with biliary colic.  I did my best to carry on regardless, and it isn’t that I didn’t produce anything at all, as can be seen from my blog posts. However, made very slow progress and several times wondered whether I should stop my studies because, maybe, I was always going to feel like this. Thankfully I’ve felt much better this last couple of months physically and mentally and feel more energised.

At first I intended to focus the Critical Essay on ‘The Female Gaze’ and submitted a proposal to my tutor who, quite rightly, replied ‘As you yourself note, this is a huge subject (and your working bibliography is longer than most PhD docs) so you will have to narrow it down’. She suggested I narrow it down on one or more artists who specifically use the internet as a way of expressing their themes and ideas.  I thought long and hard on this and, indeed, made some notes on artists who make much use of Instagram. In the end though, and in view of not feeling that great anyway, I decided to ponder on the Critical Essay a little longer.

With renewed health and enthusiasm I re-thought and decided to be sensible.  I had written twice previously about Martha Rosler and her views on social documentary and what was missing see here   and here  and decided that it would be good to continue along this theme to see how much the digital revolution had changed the way photojournalists and documentary photographers were working and whether the rise of citizen journalism had helped or hindered this.

The way I chose to cover the topic was to read around events first, draw up a force-field analysis and work from there.  Stuart Allan’s chapter ‘Blurring boundaries: professional and citizen photojournalism in a digital age’ in The Photographic Image in Digital Culture (2013) was very useful in laying out the scene so I used it as a lynchpin for research, having already read and viewed much of Fred Ritchin’s thoughts and suggestions on how photojournalists could make use of digital technology. With Allan and Ritchin as signposts I read further, including reminding myself of the views of Marshall McLuhan way back in the 1960s. I’ll be writing further on McLuhan because, although I grasped his meaning when introduced to his work in the 1970s, I couldn’t really find the words to summarise them whereas now I can, I think, including why Jean Baudrillard turned to McLuhan’s ideas to look at the links between social relations and the communications used by a society. I think that McLuhan and Baudrillard will be very useful in looking at digital identities in Part Four.

Assessment Criteria

I think that ‘Quality of Outcomes’ and ‘Context’ will be the most relevant for the Critical Essay. I find academic writing frustrating because of its style; not being supposed to use  “I”, and its structure. However, I think I have been able to demonstrate sufficient grasp of the context and ideas for the reader to follow my lines of thinking and also that I have managed to maintain a focus on the main thrust of the essay without going off too much at a tangent. I think I have also demonstrated a relevant and appropriate range of research as well through references cited.




Digital Image and Culture Assignment 3 : Critical Essay

The brief of the essay was to respond to one of four questions.  I chose to answer

Has the ‘digitial revolution’ created more problems than opportunities for today’s professional photographers? Discuss this question using relevant case studies and/or specific aspects of modern professional photography.

by asking the question

How has the digital revolution affected the role of photojournalists?

Attached is a PDF of the essay

Assignment 3- Digital Image and Culture


Interrupted Landscape: Weftwood

I had this idea of creating another installation in the Copse.  Away from the main path there’s a small ‘clearing’ atop a low hillock. Someone created a swing there sometime in the past – a hunk of rope from a tree branch tied around a large piece of wood and, during last year (2016), a tepee ‘structure’ appeared off to one side, sometimes partially covered by some old faded green cloth/tarpaulin. Towards the end of that year, a somewhat dilapidated garden seat appeared in front of the tepee. Quite often I’d see the remains of a fire, empty drink cans, bits of paper and such scattered around. I never saw any people, though I’m guessing it’s some youngsters who occasionally gather together there.

The garden seat was slowly breaking down so, in July, I decided the seat needed to be rejuvenated in some way and decided to do this with wool – weaving different colours on its back. My usual question – “Am I creating litter?” – well there was litter there already (which I’ve occasionally cleared away) and whatever I created would be temporary and removed at an appropriate point.


Friday 14th – red and green wool bought from Sue Ryder Charity shop.

Saturday 15th – announced my intention at TV group

Sunday 16th – off to the Copse with wool, camera, and scissors. Made my first ‘mark’. Posted on Instagram.

Tuesday 18th – Copse – The second stage needs wool strands not from the skein because the skein won’t fit through the slats. I cut a long piece and placed scissors and skein back in my backpack. Just as I was making my first new knot I turned round – there was Digby chasing off with the skein – wool streaming behind it. I got it back, a bit bedraggled, unravelled and with bits of leaves sticking into it. Put it back ‘safely’ I thought. Next thing I know is that both dogs have the unravelled skein on the ground and are playing with it. Rescued – back in bag, do I leave the leaves in the wool now? New weaving done so 2 strands now. Created a beginnings video as well.

<p><a href=”″>In the Beginning</a> from <a href=””>Catherine Banks</a> on <a href=””>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

It then rained seemingly endlessly for days and there was too much mud to go on the Copse.


Friday 11th and Sunday 13th – six sets of strands now but knew I wouldn’t be able to do more for a while due to a forthcoming operation then having an extra dog to care for.


Monday 4th – Feeling stronger although not quite so sure about the amount of bending needed to weave the wool.  Wondering what had happened on the Copse though so picked a brighter spell of weather to have a look.  All seemed fine.

Saturday 9th – Oh No!  I couldn’t believe what had happened.  The ‘swing’ had been dismantled with a rope swung up to another tree, with the block of wood dangling, plus a pallet contraption.  Seemed like another version of Stig of the Dump . Found the bench, even more decrepit, at the top of an incline overlooking the clearing with just a few strands of red wool hanging from it.


<p><a href=”″>Weftwood 9th September 2017</a> from <a href=””>Catherine Banks</a> on <a href=””>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

Sunday 17th – all change again – just bits of wood left now and sad, red wool strands.

Reflecting further on this experience I think that I was seeking a response –  from these unknown strangers and maybe from other people who walk the Copse with their dogs.  I have occasionally seen people with young children there and the children utilising the ‘swing’ – even my own grandchildren have had a go. It was mainly the ones I was imagining as youngsters hanging out I was interested in though. Would they notice?  Well, did they notice or was there some kind of unconscious transference that led them to create their own strange installation.  I’m writing ‘strange’ but why should their actions be more strange than my own efforts and why would I think of my own project as more creative? Maybe it was that my intention was to interact with the landscape in a different less destructive way and leave a transient ‘mark’ rather than upend everything.

Part way through the project I had thought of ‘Interrupted Landscape” and decided that this would be a good name for an overall theme I could follow in different ways.  The work I’ve been doing with the poppy field will also fit this theme as there have been changes there too this year (another post to follow).

I intend to continue with my theme and see where it takes me. There’s some wool left …..

2. “A Handful of Dust” Exhibition, Whitechapel Gallery, London

“A Handful of Dust” Exhibition at the Whitechapel Gallery, curated by David Campany
OCA Study Visit on 2nd September 2017

Thirteen of us met with tutor Jayne Taylor at the Whitechapel Gallery to explore the Exhibition, then have lunch together followed by a post prandial discussion.

The Exhibition begins with the long exposure photograph said to have been taken by the photographer Man Ray on the occasion of a visit to the studio of Marcel Duchamp in 1920 to photograph Duchamps’s work the Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even (The Large Glass).When you look here  you can see that Dust is even listed as a Medium of the work so I wondered if that’s a modern nod to Man Ray’s photograph or something originally intended by Duchamp.  Having now done some internet researching I found an MA thesis  (2007) by Jonathan R. Fardy  which refers to Duchamp having intentionally allowed an accumulation of dust to collect   Duchamp titled the photograph Dust Breeding but when it appeared in the October 1922 edition of Littérature  the text (written by both Man Ray and Duchamp) was credited View taken from an airplane by Man Ray 1921.

In a 2015 interview with Aperture Magazine discussing his book A Handful of Dust     David Campany (the curator of the Handful of Dust Exhibition) refers to his feeling that “….there was a whole history of the last century that could be extrapolated from that one image”. He goes on to say, “A thickness of dust is a measure of time.  It’s also a latent sign of actions or processes.  It’s domestic but cosmic too. To see the world from the point of view of dust will give a different perspective of history and civilization.” The Exhibition isn’t about dust as such, but uses it as a pivot around which to muse upon photography as a creative act. I think that includes the way text is used as well given that the same photograph with two different captions leads/misleads in different directions.

This was one of those occasions where I didn’t read up on the Exhibition before I visited and  I had two main responses to it on the day. Firstly, in answering the question afterwards as to what our response to the Exhibition might have been if we were not photographers, I answered along the lines of, “I would have walked straight through it”. I might have thought it interesting but no more than that. It had a rather grey, dessicated  atmosphere for me maybe because the images were mainly monochrome. I even thought that it was more of an Exhibition for photography students, especially considering that David Campany is an academic at the University of Westminster. There is something there around stretching a concept as far as possible in philosophical discourse, as does Lisa Stein in her article in Photocaptionist  (6 June 2016) where she muses upon Campany’s book; Man Ray’s photograph; Poussiere [Dust] George Bataille’s reimagining of the Sleeping Beauty fairy tale, and a quote from Winfried Georg Sebald which also appears in the Exhibition.

In discussing this quotation Lisa Stein turns the notion of ‘the decisive moment’ on its head by  referring to Bataille’s ‘total embrace of the experience of ‘not-knowing’ which he perceived to be prerequisite for the creative act”, so that creative potential lies dormant in any photograph and its meaning ‘might lie in what follows its circulation’. This can certainly be applied to Man Ray’s long exposure photograph.

Some images that drew my attention

Mona Kuhn

Ruins in Reverse (2012) a photograph of a computer screen showing a Google Earth view of California City, a planned but abandoned settlement in the desert. This is actually from Private  a series that links together nudes, desert, form, light, shade and shadow and David Campany wrote Stardust an essay for the book  of the series.

Royal Road Test  (1967) documents, in a quasi scientific manner,  the dropping of a royal typewriter from a speeding Buick car and what happens .  It was a collaboration between Mason Williams, Edward Ruscha and Patrick Blackwell  and it seems to me that they had fun doing it.  The book itself was one of a series of mass produced and cheaply printed books, created by Ruscha, that parodied the American romantic vision of ‘the road’. It was also, apparently, an influence in the making of the film California typewriter  ‘a documentary portrait of artists, writers, and collectors who remain steadfastly loyal to the typewriter as a tool and muse’ – an apposite bringing together of old/new, digital/analogue.

Xavier Ribas  (2008)

On the 24th February 2004 Necso-Acciona, owners of an empty industrial plot in Barcelona, evicted some 60 Gypsy families living there by digging and lifting the concrete floor of the site. The remains continue to give testimony of this displacement.

A large grid of photographs of the site is flanked by a smaller google earth composite view of the site as it was when the photographs were taken.

Jeff Mermelstein

Statue  from Ground Zero, September 11, 2001 (Series)


A powerful image for me, evoking my feelings and memories of that day with the cement dust-covered statue serving as an early monument here to all those who were killed.

Eva Stenram

Per Pulverem Ad Astra 3.AP1, (2007)


Stenram downloaded from NASA high-resolution digital files of images made of the surface of Mars. She then transferred these to colour negative film and left the negatives under her bed to gather dust before using them to make prints – thus combining the cosmic and the domestic as one.

Louise Oates

 Notes on Hydraulic Fracturing: The Desolate North-East 1, 2 and 3, 2014



Dirt shaped into maps of land where gas is being extracted by hydraulic fracking

Nick Waplington

 From his series The Patriarch’s Wardrobe (2010)


Photographs taken on a landfill site south of the city of Hebron (situated on land once called Palestine). The waste delivered there comes from Jewish Settlements in the Judea region of the West Bank. Before the waste is buried it is scavenged by Palestinian children working in groups for adult ‘handlers’. Waplington worked at a distance to avoid revealing identities.  The photographs are juxtaposed with paintings made of the landscape of the West Bank. Each painting represents a piece of this disputed land, and is based on colours caught by the photographs and then reworked in Waplington’s studio. The series as a whole has so much to say to me on ‘waste’ of people, cultures, lives not to mention commodities.

Some conclusions

Having now looked at the iPhone images I took in the Exhibition and researched/read about the photographs and their creators, I agree with George Bataille and Lisa Stein. Prompted, of course, by the words of David Campany, my mind has worked along the concept of dust, waste and creativity and so I have woven my own stories around particular photographs that attracted me; created my own tapestry view of the Exhibition. I’m aware as well that I have also picked out some colours from monochrome whilst also being mainly drawn to contemporary conceptual photography. I can understand the colour aspect because that’s always been my preference but less sure regarding conceptual photography as being the path for me given that I’m still drawn towards landscape photography. Let’s wait and see.

In the meantime below is a short video where David Campany introduces the Exhibition





Bath Spa University Graduate Show : June 2017

I travelled to Bath for a meet-up with Anna and after a catch-up on progress on our individual OCA work, we went along to the Graduate Show of Bath School of Art and Design. A busy day as this was also an Open Day for prospective students. Oh to be young again with the world at my feet!

There was a huge variety of work to view, scattered over the site, and here’s a selection from those I found particularly interesting.


After talking with Susannah Lemon – a Three Dimensional Designer –  about the sculptural lamp she had created from an old bicycle chain, I was attracted towards a table of ‘artefacts’ and other objects  created by Joshua Roughly another student of Three Dimensional Design.

He focused on “…. The creation , curation and study of objects and spaces that tell stories through a conceptual narrative attachment”, and his Design Studio is named Sögumaður   –  the place where stories are made.  The table/display contained his project based on Cryptogeology “the pseudoscientific study of geological formations that feature physical, chemical or historical references that are able to prove or suggest the potential existence of creatures that have a disputed or unsubstantiated actuality”- creatures such as trolls, objects and structures – to be touched and viewed and wondered about.


Juan Fontcuberta’s name doesn’t seem to be mentioned but, to me,  Joshuas’s work seems in the same spirit and I enjoyed its whimsical and imaginative nature. He even has an Etsy shop where he sells textile taxidermy

Josephine Frayling

In her Traditional and Digital Paintings and sketches Josephine explores classical figurative painting from a contemporary stance including using symbolic imagery from nature. The use of colour and the direct gaze really drew me here and I could almost imagine her subject stepping out of the frame.

Elizabeth Horridge

The above is a detail from a very large ‘installation’ strung along a wide area. Elizabeth’s work relates to the body – the concept of ‘fat rolls’ and body image – including  sculptural installations(as this one)  using  various types of materials such as latex, chains, woods, butchers’ hooks and bin bags. This is a visceral project that certainly almost hit me in the eyes and made me walk closer to look. Elizabeth was also involved in a Facebook Project “The Postal Art Project” that involved responding to a second-hand postcard – the outcome to be a collaborative zine. Interesting description of her approach to it  here 

Maria Kay


Delicate drawings in a concertina book  from Maria who is a Contemporary Arts graduate, printmaker and bookbinding enthusiast who handwrites her blog posts.


Some of the ones we looked at appeared in Source Graduate Photography Online  and it was from there that I was able to obtain links to websites.

Steve Edwards


Tempus Fugit a series of still life images, photographed in Dutch Vanitas style, “ ….illustrating the accelerating rate of the consumption of consumer goods and thus the associated resources”.  He also showed his series In Step – a study of discarded shoes.

The Tempus Fugit images were most professional and well-presented and the discarded shoes series has a quirky personality all their own. Steve’s comprehensive Professional Contexts 3 academic blog makes interesting reading as well.

Charlotte Elkins


I am becoming increasingly interested in alternative methods and so was drawn towards Charlotte’s delicate images conveying her fascination with water.  The images were produced through the use of photo etching which is something I know nothing about and my internet searches produced little information.

Aleksandra Kondracka

Aleksandra came to England from Poland at the age of eleven and the series Rodzinka focuses on ideas of identity and belonging following a period of reconnection with Poland and spending time with members of her family.  Her entry in Source Online focuses instead on landscape and the woodlands that enabled her to build a sense of place when she came to England.

Alena Nicholson

Alena comes from Chicago and the series I viewed explores how she became accustomed to living in Bath and came to terms with being homesick. She makes an interesting use of handwritten text on her display panels

Further Thoughts

It could have been because I interacted with them last but the photography work I saw, whilst interesting, didn’t impact me as much as the more three dimensional work I saw first. I was very aware of how ‘flat’ photographs can seem when viewed on a wall. Maybe this is why I find photo books so interesting because they are more tactile and am attracted towards the layering of images and alternatives methods. I felt relieved that Anna had a similar experience as she describes here