Category Archives: Exercises

Exercises for Photography1:Context and Narrative

Exercise – Newspaper advert

This advert comes from a local magazine, and is for a chain of health clubs across Norfolk.

The advert shows a trio of women with one standing towards the camera whilst the other two are turning towards it. The woman in front is holding a flag with the name of the health club whilst the other two are standing with their arms crossed.

This is obviously intended to present a strong image of confident women. The words spread across the image are very positive: ‘Alive GIRLS CAN’ implying that you can do it if you are a member of this club. It is noticeable that the word used is Girls not Women, despite the fact that one of the women is obviously much older than the other two. This is obviously intended to connote that the whole thing is independent of age.

The woman in front, who also appears to be the youngest, is standing in a very proud manner, with her chest out, holding a flag whilst the crossed arms make the other two women appear very determined. This makes the whole advert look very similar to a wartime recruitment poster. It is very obviously the intention of the advertiser to create this association in the mind of the reader.

Below the image is the text ‘NO JOINING FEE’ which is the hook to get you to join up, whilst the valid dates are in a different colour, making them less noticeable than the main message. White against light blue is not a strong contrast, making those words easily overlooked.

Below that is another strong message which includes the words ‘You can achieve them’ and then the information of how to contact the health club. Finally you have the logo of the club again, plus a logo which has the powerful message ‘THIS GIRL CAN’. Although there is no web address, this turns out to be the logo of a National Lottery funded website promoting sport for girls.

This is then an extremely powerful advert for the health club, aimed at women to get them to join. The company name appears three times, twice in the two logos and again right at the centre of the image, so that there is no way to misunderstand and join a different club.


Exercise – Masquerades

Is there any sense in which Lee’s work could be considered voyeuristic or even exploitative? Is she commenting on her own identity, the group identity of the people she photographs, or both?

I must admit that Lee’s work makes me feel that it is similar to those programmes where a young person is dressed up to be old, or a thin person made up to be fat in order to experience what it is like to be in that situation. Continue reading Exercise – Masquerades

Exercise – Autobiographical self-portraiture

Looking at the images referenced here, I do find that some of them make me feel really uncomfortable. Gillian Wearing’s images of herself with masks on to hide her identity make me feel that she is hiding. The question which I ask is, is there anything of herself in that image?

A good example is the photograph of herself as Robert Mapplethorpe. This is a pastiche of one of his own images, and making a mask of his face to cover her face, really neither praises the original Mapplethorpe photograph, nor does it say anything about her. Continue reading Exercise – Autobiographical self-portraiture


All three of these projects* are examples of personally driven work but they become universal when we can relate to the feelings they present by visiting our own personal histories.

  1. Which of these projects resonates most with you, and why?

  2. How do you feel about the loss of authorial control that comes when the viewer projects their own experiences and emotions onto the images you’ve created?

*Peter Mansell, Dewald Botha – Ring Road, Jodie Taylor Memories of Childhood.

Of the three projects mentioned the one which resonates more with me than the others is Memories of Childhood by Jodie Taylor. It reminds me very much of a project that I would like to do myself. When I was a youngster, just starting playing with cameras, I took a lot of photographs of my immediate area. Many of these were slides and I still have my slide collection from those days and one day I will get around to cataloguing them. Continue reading Exercise

Reflections on Poetry exercise.

I will admit to finding this exercise quite hard. As I said in my text, I am not a poetry person, so finding a poem which resonates with me was quite difficult. I decided on this poem both because the current season would give me chances of illustrating it, and also because it was one poem which I recall from my youth. I cannot now recite it by heart, but it sticks in my memory as one of significance. Continue reading Reflections on Poetry exercise.


Choose a poem that resonates with you then interpret it through photographs. Don’t attempt to describe the poem but instead give a sense of the feeling of the poem and the essence it exudes.

I’m not a particularly poetic person, having been rather turned off poetry by English lessons at school. It took me some time to decide which poem I could use for this exercise. Given the time of year I finally settled for a poem that we had to learn by heart at school, which is John Keats Ode to Autumn. Continue reading Exercise