OCA Level 3: Body of Work/Contextual Studies

Author: Michael (Page 1 of 6)

Ellie Laycock

I came across the work of Ellie Laycock via Jim Mortram on Twitter and was immediately struck by her series Signs of Development in which Laycock repurposes found advertising imagery showing luxury development sites, overlaying text with phrases from marketing material – the combined messages of the finished single images provide a jolt which is immediate and effective.  On her website, Laycock describes the work as follows:

“On the street level hoardings around luxury development sites, property developers and marketeers illustrate their vision of the near future. There is a disconnect between the existing population of an area and the developers digital visions of who will soon be occupying the new ‘luxury’ flats. Furthermore, many of these properties are bought off-plan by overseas investors as safety deposit boxes rather than to be occupied as homes. This influx of global wealth, combined with the commodification of home, impacts and displaces our communities.

The work also appropriates the language of the super prime market and global capital flows, extracting key phrases from their marketing material. My work explores themes around the current housing crisis in London and beyond, the commodification of home, hyper-gentrification, social cleansing, the politics of space and invites dialogue on where we go from here, or perhaps ultimately, where will we live?”

This series hits a lot of the notes that I would aspire to with my BoW – it is a personal response to the one of the key issues faced by ordinary people in the current uncertain economic times. The use of appropriated advertising imagery and text is highly effective in creating a third meaning which is both immediate and encourages further thought and consideration. The font used for the text is a strong stylistic choice which allows both images to work together and contrast with each other – with many of the composites it is not immediately apparent that we are looking at advertising images, I thought they were documentary or editorial photographs at first and the realisation that these are intended to sell a lifestyle made me reassess and look again.

‘Trickle Down Effect’ ©Ellie Laycock (reproduced with permission)
‘Global Investors’ ©Ellie Laycock (reproduced with permission)
‘Golden Post Codes’ ©Ellie Laycock (reproduced with permission)
‘Displacement’ ©Ellie Laycock (reproduced with permission)



Shutterhub (2022) Close Up: Ellie Laycock – Signs. At: https://shutterhub.org.uk/close-up-ellie-laycock-signs/ (accessed 5th December 2022)

London in Bits (2022) ‘Where Do You Go?’ with artist, Ellie Laycock. At: https://londoninbits.substack.com/p/where-do-you-go-with-artist-ellie (accessed 20th June 2023)


The course notes pose the question – is it possible to produce an objective depiction of a place or will the outcome always be influenced by the artist? My immediate response is why would anyone want to produce an objective work of art? Certainly I do not. It could be argued that any attempt to produce something which appears objective is a stylistic/artistic choice in itself. An example of artists using an objective style as a means of expression in itself that immediately springs to mind is the work of the Dusseldorf School

of photographers (see my thoughts on Thomas Ruff here.)

Although I am not a fan of the label psychogeography, I am attracted to many of the strategies that could fall under the term such as wandering, exploration and chance. Increasingly my choices about what to photograph are informed by my personal engagement with a particular place and my selection choices follow this. Anyone encountering a particular image brings their own thoughts and experiences to it and there is no way to judge how they will react and respond – the only choice we have is to make personal judgements and hope that others will share them. 

In my level 3 transition meeting, the work of the photography collective Inside the Outside was signposted for me to look at. On their website, the group describe their aims as “mediating the liminal space between the world before us and within.” To my mind, this quote succinctly sums up and defines psychogeography. As I struggle to find the direction I want to pursue with BoW, and more broadly, as a photographer; walking, looking and thinking remain the cornerstone of my practice.

Chapman’s Well:

I started BoW with psychogeography firmly placed as a strategy to employ which I hoped would yield results – I hoped that the process of walking and photographing would lead to a theme emerging. For previous projects where I have employed this approach, I have found exploring the same area over and over to be important – the familiarity with the same route has often helped with the editing process as I instinctively understand what is important to photograph. As an initial exercise for BoW, I began exploring an area close to home called Chapman’s Well. This is somewhere I have already walked extensively and one that I find fascinating – it is a mixture of rural, wild, cultivated and post industrial. Much if the site was formerly an open cast mine which was turned into a nature reserve following closure. The deep coal mines that make up much of the area also run beneath the site and there are strange metal structures above ground which are used to monitor landfill gas and ground water levels below ground and act as a reminder of the industrial history of the area. The woodland area that was planted following the closure of the open cast is well established and pretty wild, yet on closer inspection a uniformity can be noted in the planting which contrasts with the more established trees nearby. 

Nothing so far has come from the exploration of this area, although I did feature part of the site for A1: Hidden Stanley. I still walk the area and perhaps a body of work will form in the future, if nothing else I find the familiarity of walking the same paths and noting the subtle changes of the seasons or in lighting conditions endlessly inspiring and a stimulus for thinking through other problems I might face.


Bread: Grids

Displaying the bread in grids is the most obvious way to present them in order to be able to compare and contrast the differences and similarities between the slices. Although I kept a record of the individual brands/prices of each loaf, by removing the packaging and photographing each slice individually I was struck at how difficult it was to identify each slice without my notes. (Except for the Jackson’s bloomer which has a distinctive shape.) I was also struck by the imperfections where slices have become misshapen, perhaps due to production or handling. The individual texture and crumb of each slice and the air bubbles are also something I find fascinating and an aspect that could be worthy of exploring further.

4×3 (No border)

2. 3×3 (No border)

3. 3×3 (Border)

4. 11×1 (Horizontal)

5. 1×11 (Vertical)


  • The cropped images again work better as the slices are more uniform and consistent in their presentation. However, the scale of each slice is not accurate which is an issue with accurate representation – shooting each slice at actual size and presented in a consistent way, such as central in the frame, is something that will cause a headache at the time of shooting, but coming up with a way of achieving this could be worth the work for the end result.
  • The white border works better than I had envisaged – if the images were shown in a gallery setting I could imagine them being individually framed or individual prints placed straight onto the wall. 
  • The differences in white balance and lighting in the white grid images without borders work unexpectedly well as they show an imperfection that somehow makes the grids seem less formal – the sets that attempt to show consistency and make the viewer look harder for errors that once found become distracting.
  • My initial thoughts are that the black background works best, however, by putting them together there are subtle differences in the background that were not easily detected when the images were presented alone and become a distraction here.

Classic Street Style: Side Gallery, Newcastle

As a couple entered the gallery, I heard the assistant explain what the exhibition contained: photographs by Weegee of New York, Robert Doisneau of Paris and Jimmy Forsyth of Scotswood Road, Newcastle. One of the visitors exclaimed, “New York, Paris and Scotchy Road…three great places together!” I suspect this was said only partially with tongue in cheek and detected a sense of pride that Newcastle, and the work of local amateur photographer, Jimmy Forsyth was being shown alongside renowned and famous images made by Weegee and Doisneau. Indeed, the juxtaposition of the work of these photographers invited appreciation of the similarities in their output such as their shared tenacity and drive to make photographs and focus on a particular geographical area for much of their careers. The differences are also apparent – Weegee stalked the streets of New York by night using a police radio to photograph crime scenes, often arriving before the police themselves. (The nickname Weegee derives from Ouija board as his ability to be in the right place at the right time appeared supernatural.) Doisneau focused on the everyday, seeking to shed light on those who are never in the limelight. His images are rich in poetic social realism however, and have become synonymous with our romantic notions of Paris. (For example ‘The Kiss by the Hotel de Ville‘, which despite controversial revelations that it was staged, remains iconic and full of youth, vigour, romance – and is quintessentially French.) Unlike Weegee and Doisneau, Jimmy Forsyth was an amateur who took up photography as a hobby following an industrial accident that made it difficult for him to find work. As part of the Scotswood Road community, he was able to document with both insight and intimacy the area and people at a point of change as buildings were demolished to make way for high rise flats. The exhibition notes quote Forsyth:

“When you’re taking a photograph, you’re recording something that will never happen again, catching a moment in time. I was just capturing what I knew was going to disappear…I realised someone should make a record of what was left of the community. I had nothing to do; why not make a record of Scottie Road to pass the time? It would show future generations what we looked like and how we lived.”

Jimmy Forsyth
Jimmy Forsyth

A number of thoughts run through my head about this exhibition. Firstly, this is work that could not be made today. In their own ways these photographers were separated from the people they photographed simply by owning a camera and making images. This meant that the photographs they made have a rarity that would not be possible now when virtually everyone has a camera in their pocket. The website Atelier Robert Doisneau declares his photo archive contains around 450 000 images, a figure that seems impressively large and unwieldy until you consider how many digital images are made on a daily, even hourly basis. Given time (and nostalgia is an important part of the power of each of the bodies of work by the photographers shown in the exhibition) these images from today could become just as important as the images shown in the exhibition-the question is how will anyone be able to make sense of massive digital archives in the future?

Robert Doisneau
Robert Doisneau

There is a strong argument to be made that the work of amateur Jimmy Forsyth is of equivalent importance to that of Doisneau and Weegee. In fact, in some ways it surpasses it – Forsyth not only photographed a particular geographical area and he was also part of the community which gives his photographs an intimacy, and most importantly, authenticity that arguably makes them more relevant than the work of Doisneau and Weegee. Yes, individually the two professionals may have better single images, but, I would argue Forsyth edges them when his output is considered a body of work in itself. Which brings me back to my first point – Jimmy Forsyth’s work is rare because he was one of the few people in his area at his time with a camera, and rarer still that he spent his time photographing everyday life in a way that others would not have done. This is not the case today, everyone is now a photographer and to not record our everyday life through photography would make us an outlier. Does this mean that this type of street photography has had its day? The intent of the photographer remains all important, but without the endorsement of a gatekeeper within photography it is unlikely that work would reach an audience.


Often I leave an exhibition feeling invigorated, motivated and inspired, I left Classic Street Style with more questions than I feel I can process at the minute. Perhaps this is due to some concerns I have currently about what photography means in the 21st century and what, if anything, I have to contribute. 


Paul Reas

See: Documentary Blog: Paul Reas

The work of Paul Reas has resonated with me for some time, and considering artists who have explored themes of consumerism, I immediately thought of his series I Can Help (1988). Rod Jones links Reas’ work both visually and thematically with that of Paul Graham, Martin Parr and John Davies who were also concerned in the 1980s with “charting the postmodernist or late capitalist transformation of Britain with varying degrees of detached objectivity, horrified fascination or angry commitment.” (Reas, 1988: 5) However, he sees Reas’ work as going beyond and underneath this to engage with a more “determinative level of reality” using constructed narrative within and between the photographs to overcome the “familiar if limited conventions of liberal humanist documentary photography.” (Reas, 1988: 5)

Reas describes the political drive to make I Can Help in impassioned terms which encapsulate the specific moment in British history when the photographs were made. The neoliberal policies of Thatcher’s Conservative government meant that the 1980s saw deregulation of the banking system meaning credit was easy to come by: “faith in a free market economy and a firm belief in individualism turned British culture from a ‘we’ to a ‘me’ generation.” Easy credit led to a rapid rise in consumer spending and this growth in consumption and the effect it had on changing British culture is Reas’ overriding concern in the series:

“The then new shopping malls, situated on the edge of cities, were the new cathedrals of consumption, and the ‘new’ retail parks,’ with their supermarkets and furniture stores were the parish churches. Shopping and the purchasing of an off-the-shelf lifestyle were becoming new leisure activities.” (Reas, 2018: 110)

Reas’ position is firmly, and overtly, anti-consumerist. It is a position I can identify with, but I Can Help is a work that is very much of it’s time and a response to a rapidly changing political and economic landscape. Consumerism has now firmly become the reality of late capitalist everyday life, not everything about it is negative but its influences are impossible to escape – even taking an anti-consumerist stance show this. I wonder how Reas would approach the subject today (the problem I am wrestling with for my Body of Work) has his position softened or become more entrenched?

Stylistically I Can Help inspires because of the way Reas both adopts and rejects notions of documentary realism to create a series that Val Williams describes as being “constructed from the ‘real.'” and “raw and performative.” (Reas, 2018: 103) Reas exploited the energy and primary colours he witnessed in the supermarkets, fast food restaurants and furniture showrooms he photographed: 

“Meat, red, signs that screamed offers, exhausted patrons, the brightness of flash illuminating scurrying customers – ‘I Can Help’ was brazen and without the irony or the whimsy that Reas had kicked against withing the new British photography of the late 1970s and early 1980s.” (Reas, 2018: 103-4)

Although I stand by my assertion that the world of today is barely recognisable to the one Reas shows, there may be more similarities than I initially thought. At the time of writing Britain is facing an unprecedented cost of living crisis that is likely to have far reaching consequences and could change our relationship to consumerism and consumption forever. This both fascinates, terrifies and fills me with rage – perhaps this feeling similar to those that motivated Reas and I should embrace this and let it feed my work?

© Paul Reas (reproduced with permission)
© Paul Reas (reproduced with permission)
© Paul Reas (reproduced with permission)
© Paul Reas (reproduced with permission)



Andreasson, K. (2014) Paul Reas’s best shot: a dad buying army wallpaper for his son. The Guardian, 12th March 2014. At: https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2014/mar/12/paul-reas-best-shot-dad-army-wallpaper (accessed 22nd April 2018)

Chandler, D. (2014) Paul Reas: Elephant and castle. Photoworks issue 10. At:  https://photoworks.org.uk/paul-reas-new-work/ (accessed 22nd April 2018)

Lubbock, T. (1993) The Broader Picture/The Vision Thing. The Independent 24th April 1993. At: https://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/the-broader-picture-the-vision-thing-1457297.html (accessed 22nd April 2018)

Reas, P. (1988) I Can Help. Manchester: Cornerhouse publications.

Reas, P. (1993) Flogging a Dead Horse: Heritage Culture and its Role in Post-industrial Britain. Manchester: Cornerhouse Publications.

Reas, P. (2018) Fables of Faubus. London: Gost Books.

Bread: Images/First Shoot

For this first experiment shooting individual slices of bread, I bought 11 white loaves from the supermarket and set about making a number of photographs to see where this could take me. I used a white and black pillow case for the backgrounds and shot handheld aligning the bottom of each slice along the grid line of my camera view finder. Originally I had intended to use a tripod but found positioning each of the slices correctly to achieve consistency difficult. This is something I will need to revisit however if I am to continue with this project as I want to maximise sharpness and detail in each of the shots.

11 loaves of white bread chosen from my local supermarket to photograph

1. White background:

Instantly I dislike being able to see the pattern of the stitching in the background of these and find the shadows distracting. There are also variations in the white balance which effects consistency. This assessment is based on a prejudged idea of wanting the slices of bread to stand out against the background and for this to be plain and lacking in distraction. The downside to this is that the images could appear clinical or sterile. The ‘mistakes’ that I detail above could be a way of negating this and perhaps something that I should not dismiss without consideration. The finished effect will depend entirely on how I choose to present the images.

2. White background – cropped:

Again I feel conflict about whether these are more successful than the images above. My initial though was that they are instantly more impactful, but the more I consider them, the more I start to consider the possibility that allowing the images space to ‘breathe’ could be important. There is also the consideration about how I show variation in sizes of each of the slices which is not evident in these images due to shooting hand held and is further skewed through cropping.

3. Black background:

Presenting the images on a black background is how I imagined they would look before shooting, however, I wanted to experiment with a white background as well to see how the slices of bread looked. These images on a black background here fulfilled my expectations – the tone and texture of the bread is emphasised by the contrasting background which allows the viewer to concentrate on the details of each slice from crust to crumb. The problems of shadows and inconsistent white balance are also negated here.

4. Black background – cropped:

Strangely I find cropping the images here less impactful than the white background – perhaps the lack of distraction with the black background allows the image to ‘breathe’ more as mentioned above.

Initial thoughts on further development:

  • Need to consider how I will be able to shoot using a tripod and ensure consistent composition between each slice for further attempts.
  • Lighting is something I need to think about more. For this initial attempt I used a cheap ring light intended for blogging combined with natural light. If I pursue this project, I envisage photographing many slices of bread which will be impossible to achieve in one shoot as I have here – having a consistent lighting set up will be crucial to achieving consistent results.
  • The eventual presentation of the images is also something to consider – will they be individual or on a grid? Life size or bigger, or even smaller? Again, consistency is the main thing I need to think about.

CS A3: Response to Tutor Feedback

After much wrestling and concern about my direction for CS, I finally seem to be hitting on something I can pursue. It was reassuring to hear in my tutorial that the process I have been going through, and concerns I have, are common for students at this point. It was also good to have confirmation that  focusing on bread as a commodity is an idea that has potential – arriving at this as the subject for my essay and as a conceit to explore the wider topic of consumerism is something that has suddenly given me a sense of purpose and direction. I thought the tutor notes summed this up effectively:

“Bread has long since shifted from a ‘food for the poor’ to something that is fetishised and overlaid with all kinds of class connotations, ones that seem to come through a haze of nostalgia for a pre-mass production era. Looking at how it is marketed, particularly in terms of its photographic representations, with references to the rustic and pastoral, could really help…open everything up.” (Conroy, 2022)

A key point made was that so far I had focused on theory and said very little about visual culture/photography – discussing this needs to be the focus of my essay and will also help with building my argument/thesis. As Andrew pointed out, photography, particularly in the digital age, is an essential tool in the representation of commodities, not only in terms of selling things through advertising and marketing, but also, as something that can challenge and critique.

In summary, a very motivating and focused tutorial that addressed my doubts helped me understand what I need to do to develop my dissertation and realise the ideas I have. It suddenly feels like things are coming together…

BoW A2: Tutor Feedback

Very helpful and motivating tutorial and feedback, Les was encouraging about the various ideas I have for A3 and their potential for development. He did strike a note of caution however that the time for experimentation and making decisions is limited – I need to narrow my focus in order to interrogate my theme of consumerism – essentially discarding elements that are not working.

Here are some further thoughts on comments made:

  • Aesthetic of A2 could prove useful later:

I perhaps have been too quick to think only of the use of the Holga for A2 as a workflow strategy rather than considering if this is a way of working that could be developed further. I like the idea of mixing different outputs, the most obvious of which is digital and analogue, so I should maybe experiment further with this.

  • Cost of living discussion:

Since my tutorial, the rapid increase in the cost of living (inflation, energy costs, petrol/diesel etc.) has become even more topical – if I am interested in trying to make a body of work that responds to the realities of life at this very moment then this is the ideal subject matter. How to do this however is a major consideration – the idea of focusing on commodities (with bread as a starting point) was received well so perhaps this is the way to begin.

  • A personal project about the experience I have working in retail:

This is not something I had really considered until I discussed it with Les, but the more I think about it, the more I think the access/knowledge I have about the realities of working for a large supermarket chain could lead to something that is both personal and meaningful.

Do next:

I plan to experiment with each of the approaches I have detailed in the tutor report as a way of arriving at the project I am going to take for the rest of BoW. It is important not to analyse these too much initially and concentrate on making images and consider which of these have the potential to develop further.

CS: A3 – Introduction and Chapter One (Draft)


Approach and process:

Writing an introduction and a single chapter for A3 is a practical way of making the tackling of the dissertation, but also flawed. I cannot help but consider I would have been better served trying to produce a full first draft rather than concentrate on these two sections, although I also concede that this would have been a daunting undertaking in itself.

My strategy for A3 has been to read, take notes and write in the hope that the position I want to take for this essay will reveal itself – something that has some success and many false starts/dead ends. The subject of consumerism is huge and unwieldy with a great deal of sources to potentially contend with (although many of these are dated which is frustrating.) I have identified three main areas that are potential jumping off points:

  • Commodity fetishism:

I find this idea originating from Marx compelling as it is a neat metaphor for the intangible power of commodities and leads into other concepts that I wish to discuss such as Debord’s Spectacle, Barthes’ notion of myth as well as semiotics, marketing, advertising, identity, ideology and everyday life. I chose to write about this subject first for precisely this reason – hoping it would organically develop onto the other subjects.

  • Semiotics/sign values of consumerism:

One of the comments made about A2 that has really stuck with me is how I will write an essay that incorporates and responds to the visual culture of consumerism rather than something that is a sociological study or has a ‘now for some visual stuff’ chapter. Increasingly I return to the thought that the visual language of consumerism is something that will be a significant cornerstone of my essay. 

For BoW I am currently interrogating various approaches, one of which is the way we encounter images of consumerism in the everyday world. I am interested in exploring the idea that we are both highly visually literate and unconsciously influenced by the huge amounts of visual culture that we are surrounded with and that this has the potential to shape our politics and world view in ways we not overtly aware of.

  • Identity, ideology and everyday life:

How the products we own shape our identities and telegraph this to others advances thoughts about commodity fetishism and has links to ideology and everyday life. These topics have the opportunity to challenge some of the simplistic interpretations of the consumer as mindless and manipulated. My position is that we have much more power as consumers than is commonly recognised while at the same time, one of the realities of late capitalism is that it is impossible to escape consumption as it is so entwined in our everyday life. 

Mark Fisher observed that “not only is capitalism the only viable political and economic system, but…it is…impossible even to imagine a coherent alternative to it.” (Fisher, 2009:2) This statement rings true because it strikes at the very heart of the issue that despite all that is wrong with the capitalist system, the promise of freedom and the potential for a better life combined with the fear that anything else would be worse is powerful.

Reading and Notetaking:

This is something I am still struggling with although I think I am starting to improve. The problem I have had is trying to be precise with my focus while still not fully understanding what I want to say in my essay which has meant I have needed to read widely and kept falling into the trap of spending time on sources that are interesting but not necessarily relevant. I am acutely aware that time is my greatest obstacle but I have as yet been unable to come up with a way to keep myself on track. It seems trite to mention, but I do so because it is a real obstacle for me, that it has been difficult to get in to the right ‘headspace’ to study. By their very nature, academic texts are often difficult and dare I say dry reads – the reality of life is that it is often difficult to switch off everything else and engage in study. Often I have found myself in the position of sitting down to read and finding my mind wandering and being distracted by external factors – I am not sure that there is a way around this, I simply note that it is a real impact.

Strategies I have started to employ that I hope will help:

  • Subject focus:

As described above, I have tried to focus my research into specific areas/subjects although I suspect these are still too far ranging and require further refinement.

  • Note taking/writing:

Until recently, I have treated reading, note taking and writing as separate processes which I have recognised as a mistake that has cost me a great deal of time. When it has come to writing I have found myself having to reread great sections of work to refamiliarise myself which has frustrated me greatly. Most of the time I am snatching an hour here and there to study which makes keeping momentum an issue. 

To combat both of these issues I have started writing at the same time as I am reading and have found that has immediately helped me understand sources more thoroughly and also help me get to grips with there relevance to what I want to say. Most importantly, this is helping when I come to incorporate these thoughts into the essay.

Thoughts on A3:

I feel (and hope) I am on the cusp of understanding where I want to go with my essay, but not quite there yet. The process of writing A3 has told me more about what not to do rather than resulting in a successful output in itself. For much of the time I have been frustrated that the writing has not come together more cohesively, I wonder if I have been too naïve believing that my direction and central thesis would present itself in an organic way – even now I feel this is all very vague. Perhaps a change of approach is necessary? Maybe I should go back to the drawing board with my hypothesis/essay question in order to set myself stricter boundaries?

I suspect that little, if any, of the work that I am presenting for this assignment will make it into my final draft. This is not something that particularly worries me as I would fully expect the essay to develop extensively from this point. I do need some help/cajoling/strong direction from the assignment tutorial however to push me forward.

A new direction?

As I finish this submission, I have arrived at a potential new direction that could either be the breakthrough I am looking for or a distraction that could take me further off piste. For BoW I am currently exploring different ways I can explore consumer and commodity culture, and have started a project about bread – a ubiquitous, everyday commodity – deceptively simple and full of complex connotations. Bread can be a mass produced loaf from a supermarket or a handmade, artisan sourdough from a craft bakery – either cheap and accessible or expensive and exclusive. Affordability, accessibility and class are all symbolically represented by bread and this could be an effective conceit to explore the topics of consumerism I have already identified while providing a more structured framework for me. The images I am currently working on could also be used to illustrate the essay.

Talking about this idea with my BoW tutor I was pointed towards a short book by Scott Cutler Shershow about bread and since reading the idea keeps coming back to me. This quote demonstrates in ways more eloquent than my own why the concept could have potential:

“bread – which “appears at first sight to be an extremely obvious, trivial thing” – can be shown to be “a very strange thing, abounding in metaphysical subtleties and theological niceties.” The reader who has noticed I make this point by repurposing the famous opening lines of Karl Marx’s chapter in Capital on “The Fetishism of the Commodity and its Secret” may take this as a precaution. For of course it is finally because bread does present itself, quite literally, as the master of so many – the “staff of life,” the ultimate staple commodity, an object marking the very line of survival itself – that bread as either an object or an idea has accumulated such overwhelming symbolic power. This is obviously why the word and image “bread” often signifies value itself, and refers metaphorically either to food in general, or to something like “livelihood,” in expressions such as “breadwinner,” “taking the bread out of his mouth,” and so forth. Similarly, both “bread” and “dough” have been used as slang words for money. And no wonder, because it is precisely in societies like ours, societies radically divided along lines of wealth and poverty, the bread becomes (as Peter Camporesi writes), “a polyvalent object on which life, death and dreams depend…the culminating point and instrument, real and symbolic, of existence itself.” (Shershow, 2016: 3-4)

When I read this passage, it immediately resonated as something I wanted to express myself about consumerism, commodities and how these are entrenched in all of our everyday existence. On the face of it, bread is so simple consisting of flour, yeast, water and salt, and yet, in order to make it truly accessible, many more ingredients must be added so each loaf can achieve consistency through production on an industrial scale and retain freshness on supermarket shelves. To make a true, simple loaf requires time and skill – both of which cost money and drive up cost making these ‘artisan’ loaves only available to those who can afford them and putting them out of reach of many. 

What next?

I feel like I am on the edge of making a breakthrough for CS, but need some help to be pushed in the right direction. Do I start again with the conceit of exploring bread as a way of discussing the wider concerns about consumerism that I am interested in pursuing? Is this an idea that has potential or a distraction? Is it acceptable to produce some visual work myself to illustrate the essay? If I don’t change direction, then how do I proceed from here? How do I bring the aspects of consumerism I have researched so far together as a cohesive argument? What is the question I want to answer?

Finishing this reflection has made me realise more than ever that I have reached a critical point in the course and that I need some help to make sense of where I need to go next. I am frustrated by the many false starts I have had so far while pragmatic that they have been a necessary part of the process and concerned that time to experiment is now at an end. Despite this, I feel a sense of enthusiasm for the bread concept that has been lacking so far and an intuition that this could be the stimulus that helps drive me forward.

Tutorial discussion points:

  • Reading:
    • Any further resource recommendations?
  • How can I refine my research question?
  • Notetaking:
    • Any tips?
  • Bread concept:
    • Does this have potential?


Fisher, Mark. (2009) Capitalist Realism. Winchester: Zero Books.

Shershow, S.C. (2016) Bread. New York: Bloomsbury Academic. 

Howells and Negreiros: Photography

In their chapter on photography, Howells and Negreiros survey some of the historical developments in responses to photography as an art and the relationship of the medium to reality. The paper contains much useful information and debate, however I found myself strangely disengaged from it. I previously read this when I studied both UVC and documentary and found it useful then, so I am struggling to understand what has changed. Perhaps it is me and my thinking – having extensively considered whether photography is an art (answer = it depends) or the relationship between photography and reality (answer = it is a mixture of truth and fiction) I have explored these topics as much as I want to. That is not to try and suggest that I am an authority on this, far from it, simply that these debates  are not the ones that I find most engaging or relevant to my current practice. I also find myself increasingly engaged with texts that have a strong point of view or argument to make and considering if I am convinced or share the arguments being presented. Despite all of these rambling thoughts, there is much to engage with in the paper, here are some of the quotes that resonated with me:

  • Quote from Bazin’s Ontology of the Photographic Image:
    • “the photograph is like a ‘fingerprint’. It is not the finger itself, but a record of the thing itself made by the thing itself.” (p. 199)
      • A succinct yet deceptively simple metaphor. Anyone can recognise a finger but to truly be able to read the information contained in a fingerprint in a useful way requires specialist knowledge.
  • Mike Weaver – the photograph is like a novel based on a true story. 
    • This quote enigmatically encapsulates the push/pull relationship between photography, reality and truth. It particularly chimes with my thinking as I become more comfortable with being unconcerned about notions of impartiality in my personal work and embrace ideas of authorship and presenting a personal view point. I should research the text quoted further.
      • Photography is “a meeting of the actual and the imaginary, where each adds to, rather  than detracts from, the power of the other. When we view a photograph, we are stimulated by the hallucination and the fact at the same time – and receive the compounded stimulation of both. The effect is doubled, not halved. The relationship between photography and reality is, therefore, a complex one, but it is a complexity that explains the deep and articulate richness of the photographic image.” (p. 200)


Howells, R. and Negreiros, J. (2012) ‘Photography’ In: Visual Culture. Cambridge: Polity Press. pp. 183-206

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