Part 4. Project 2. Research Point: Documenting Journeys

In this exercise I am to go online and find out more about three bodies of work; Paul Graham – A1 Project, Stephen Shore – American Surfaces, Alec Sloth – Sleeping by the Mississippi, Robert Franks – The Americans.

I am then to find some other examples of photography documenting a journey through time/space.

Paul Graham – A1 Project

In the early 1980’s Graham was a photographer who was one of the first to use colour in conjunction with documentary. In 1981/1982 he created a series of photographs of different scenes from along the length of the A1 motorway. They are a dreary set of images which feature grey skies, urban sprawl, random dining facilities and occasional people. It seems that this photo book is now a collectors item and is valued at £250, staggering. I read repeatedly that this use of colour by Graham with this and subsequent projects led to the evolution of a new school of British Photography which featured the work of work of Richard Billingham, Tom Wood, Paul Seawright, and Anna Fox amongst others. (2019). We English » Blog Archive » A1- THE GREAT NORTH ROAD. [online] Available at: [Accessed 30 Sep. 2019].

Possibly inspired by a similar trip undertaken by Robert Franks (it is mentioned within a BBC article) Graham uses a combination of close up images and standing further back from a scene. It became clear through research that he started to take a more ‘step-back’ approach to scene photography during his time in Northern Ireland documenting the troubles and their interaction with the landscape. I think he used this approach where possible in highlighting different locations or characters within his A1 journey. (2019). ‘Great North Road Garage, Edinburgh, November 1981’ by Paul Graham | Financial Times. [online] Available at: [Accessed 30 Sep. 2019].

In other cases he used the new power of his chosen medium, colour, to highlight details that might otherwise have gone overlooked. This can be seen in the close up of the green interior with the red and white hanging signs. (2019). Paul Graham Archive. [online] Available at: [Accessed 30 Sep. 2019]. (2019). Paul Graham’s ‘A1: The Great North Road’, A Summary. [online] Available at: [Accessed 30 Sep. 2019].

BBC News. (2019). Paul Graham: Photographs 1981-2006. [online] Available at: [Accessed 30 Sep. 2019].

Stephen Shore – American Surfaces

American Surfaces is a 312 image collection made by Photographer Stephen Shore during a road trip across America in 1972/3.

The collection can be displayed as smaller groups on different subjects such as informal portraits, photographs of urban streets, domestic objects, meals and street signs or displayed together en masse.

Shore spent time at Andy Warhols factory in the 1960’s and ever since, his work has been closely linked to conceptualism, according to an article on the Tates website. When he originally displayed these images they were mounted onto the sae surface in a giant grid using sticky back tape. The article talks about how this represented a key moment int he history of photography. I think that this approach to displaying the images makes sense, it is said that Shore said he wanted to photograph ‘everyone and everything’. How are the images from that to be presented in a way which gives all things and people equality unless like this? To do so would otherwise require a hierarchy of images to be made, but what is important to one viewer will not be important to another. This was not the first time that Shore had exhibited work in a grid format, in a Guardian article I read a description of a work of 32 images in which he had photographed a car abandoned in the desert from a variety of distances. Whist taken in black and white as it was early on in his career it was displayed in a grid in rows of four.

American surfaces is not the only style of roadtrip or documenting of time that he has undertaken. In Amarillo Texas he shot his travelling companion Doug Marsh every half hour for a regular day. These too were displayed as a grid. (2019). [online] Available at: [Accessed 30 Sep. 2019].

Tate. (2019). ‘New York, New York, March 1972’, Stephen Shore, 1972, printed 2005 | Tate. [online] Available at: [Accessed 30 Sep. 2019].

O’Hagan, S. (2019). Shady character: how Stephen Shore taught America to see in living colour. [online] the Guardian. Available at: [Accessed 30 Sep. 2019]. (2019). MoMA PS1: Exhibitions: Stephen Shore: American Surfaces. [online] Available at: [Accessed 30 Sep. 2019].

Alec Sloth – Sleeping by the Mississippi

Alec Sloth was close to giving up on ever being an artist in his early 20s whilst working as a photo lab technician. He spent a month living with his mother in law assisting with her end of life care before finding the freedom to start driving with his camera. He traveled along the Mississippi over 5 years meeting people and taking photographs which as it turned out, were nothing like what he had originally intended. The Magnum website article states that he began with a list of keywords he was interested in taped to his steering wheel but would often find that the things he was drawn to take pictures of did not correspond to this list. What resulted is a series of 46 interesting images.

Interestingly as he took peoples photographs he would also ask them to write down their dreams. These range from a man living surrounded by snow who dreamt of running water to a prostitute who dreams of becoming a nurse. Seeing peoples environments that they inhabit and knowing what they are inspired by is an intriguing combination, it gives more depth to an image, more of an insight into that person.

Of the three artists that I have looked at so far in this research exercise, this is the one whose photographs I have found the most interesting. The portraits of people contain some kind of visual clue or interest, or even the use of colour is so stunning as to make them just interesting to look at. With the people-free scenes that Soth has photographed, he has again chosen interesting arrangements of objects, or good colour juxtapositions or just plain old interesting things to look at. The British Journal of Photography website article states that he sometimes would rearrange these scenes to make them more appealing, though the artist himself regrets the extent to which he did this I think that it is probably the source of the continued strength of the images through the book.

Magnum Photos. (2019). Sleeping By The Mississippi • Alec Soth • Magnum Photos. [online] Available at: [Accessed 30 Sep. 2019]. (2019). Alec Soth | Sleeping by the Mississippi. [online] Available at: [Accessed 30 Sep. 2019].

British Journal of Photography. (2019). Alec Soth is Sleeping by the Mississippi. [online] Available at: [Accessed 30 Sep. 2019].

Robert Franks – The Americans

In the early 1950’s Robert Frank drove across America with the intention of photographing it. He took approximately 27,000 images which he then had to whittle down to 83.

Despite having had photographs published by Life magasine they had repeatedly turned down his photo stories, this was something he was determined to accomplish so he set out to achieve it himself but on a very different tack. The article that I read on says that ‘On a technical level, he brazenly tossed out an adherence to traditional ideas of composition, framing, focus, and exposure ‘. This is something that I have seen several times now and still do not understand. A lot of widely revered photographers seem to produce work which contains images that are out of focus or badly framed or of nothing inparticular. Every instinct that remains from learning photography at college screams to me that these are bad pictures and should be launched into the bin immeadiatley. Somehow, in a way which I do not understand, these images in the hands of experts are allegedly actually something good. I will have to take the experts word for it because I just don’t see how.

What Franks wanted to create was a study of actual America, not the airbrushed version of it presented by traditional magasines such as Life. He wanted the warts and all aspects, the bits with character.

YouTube. (2019). Robert Frank on photographing The Americans. [online] Available at: [Accessed 30 Sep. 2019].

In this video Franks talks about how he travelled and would hunt for photographs. He says that the camera must always be ready to shoot, because if it isnt then there are some great oppourtunities lost.

Indrisek, S. (2019). How Robert Frank’s “The Americans” Broke the Rules of Photography. [online] Artsy. Available at: [Accessed 30 Sep. 2019].

LensCulture, R. (2019). The Americans – Photographs by Robert Frank | LensCulture. [online] LensCulture. Available at: [Accessed 30 Sep. 2019].

Other examples of photography documenting a journey through time/space

  1. Work: My first example is possibly a little different to what the course manual is asking for….

One of my previous (and most favourite) jobs was on 2(AC) Squadron which flew Tornado jets. We took our regular turn in Op Herrick (Afghanistan) kinetically delivering Air Power to the enemy. Whilst there, a friend of mine called ‘Fatal’ used to make videos using a combination of video footage and still photographs. Having watched them back for the first time in years I can confirm that they absolutley capture a window of time.

The first example below is more video footage than still images. It gives a real taste of the essence of the mission of that time. In particular, the first sound that you hear on the video is the rocket alarm. On hearing this sound we all had to throw ourselves on the floor to try and avoid being struck by weaponry/debris launched at us by the Taliban. Reacting to this noise becomes subconscious, within days if you hear just the first note of the alarm you wold find yourself on the floor without making the conscious decision. Hearing it again took me straight back to 2010.

YouTube. (2019). HERRICK 2010. [online] Available at: [Accessed 22 Oct. 2019].

This second example from Fatal is a lot heavier on the use of photographic still images. Mostly the video parts are chosen for their comedy value, the movie ‘Anchorman’ was in vogue at the time, and help to locate the video in history as approximately 2010. The video covers the Squadrons experiences over a 4/5 month period.

YouTube. (2019). Copy of Afghan the movie HD copy. [online] Available at: [Accessed 22 Oct. 2019].

More traditional examples of Photography documenting a journey through time and space…..

2: Holiday Blog

The Journey through India through photos as displayed on the blog Earth Trekkers is a more traditional depiction of a journey. It features images of the subjects during travel, sights that they saw, locals and isolated items of interest such as meals. There are both scene setting images and intimate portraits, colour and black and white. All of the images are framed and taken in a way that presents as artistic as opposed to traditional ‘holiday snaps’.

This blog shows the journey of the subjects through India.

Malinosky-Rummell, R. and Patil, J. (2019). A Journey through India in Photos. [online] Earth Trekkers. Available at: [Accessed 22 Oct. 2019].

3: Time Lapse Photography

timelapse photography tips
PictureCorrect. (2019). Timelapse Photography: Tips & Tricks to Manipulate Time. [online] Available at: [Accessed 22 Oct. 2019].

Time lapse photography is a way of showing the passing of time. It is often carried out with star trails but other objects such as the moon can also be used. This image shows the journey of the moon over the course of several hours.


Assignment Two

In this assignment I am to choose a piece of text by a contemporary author that explores time and/or place. I am then to carry out a close reading of it and write about my response, interpretation and feelings about the writing and its themes. I am also to mention: plot, structure, character, narrator, point of view, language and language techniques, as well as possible themes of time and place. (Word limit – 1500)

The Toymakers by Robert Dinsdale. Chapter 1 Page 1

The Emporium opens with the first frost of winter. It is the same every year. Across the city, when children wake to see ferns of white stretched across their windows, or walk to school to hear ice crackling underfoot, the whispers begin: the Emporium is open! Christmas is coming, and the goose is getting fat … If, at a certain hour on a certain winter night, you too had been wandering the warren between New Bond Street and Avery Row, you might have seen it for yourself. One moment there would be darkness, only the silence of shops shuttered up and closed for business. The next, the rippling snowflakes would part to reveal a mews you had not noticed before–and, along that mews, a storefront garlanded in lights. Those lights might be but pinpricks of white, no different to the snowflakes, but still they would draw your eye. Lights like these captivate and refract the darkness. Lights like these can bewitch the most cynical of souls. Watch out, because here one such soul comes, hurrying out of the night. He is a barrel of a man, portly to those who would look on him kindly, corpulent to those who would not. Outside the Emporium, he stops and gazes up, but this is not the first time he has been enchanted by these lights, so he steps through the door to be met by the whirlwind smells of cinnamon and star anise. Ribbons of navy blue stream apart and, in the vaulted ceiling above, miniature bells tinkle, spiriting up memories he has tried hard to forget: sleigh rides through parks too painful to remember, wassailing on the village green, Christmases in better, more innocent times. (Words 280)

This was an easy extract to choose for this exercise. I read a lot so am accustomed to good writing, even so, on reading this first page of ‘The Toymakers’ I was immediately entranced. I recall at the time actually noting how remarkably swiftly the author had constructed a sense of time and place. Months later on reaching this exercise in the course manual, I knew exactly which book to use.

The extract is longer than the instructions in the assignment, it proved to be awkward to edit down. The initial lines are essential to setting the season and atmosphere, the last few lines provide more depth to the character and situation, because of this I chose to keep both end of it and just use a longer extract.

The first theme which I notice in this extract is ‘Time’. The reader is immediately made aware that the narrative is set in a previous era, this is made clear in a variety of ways. The very first words of the extract, ‘The Emporium’, conjure up images of antiquity and discovery. Language choice as the passage continues, for example ‘first frost of Winter’, further this themes establishment. Word choices such as ‘mews’ ’emporium’ ‘garlanded’ and ‘corpulent’ are not in such common use anymore. They speak of an older era, possibly Victorian, it brings to mind the kind of architecture that is traditionally on the front of Christmas cards. It took me a while to figure out what Dinsdale had done with his approach to the language used. It didn’t seem to be old English, but at the same time, it is not as casual as the wording in contemporary novels. I eventually realised that he had just chosen to use correct English without any shortenings. For example, ‘It is the same every year’ vs ‘It’s the same every year’. This technique gives the whole text a flavour of coming from a different era but without alienating the modern reader. References to traditional Christmas elements such as the fattening of the goose, and ‘wassailing on the village green’ which are no longer mainstream all conspire to whisk the reader back to a world we quite often only see depicted on the front of Christmas cards.

Much like in the excerpt of The Road there is a man character who provides our focal point without actually being introduced to us or saying anything. The sense of ‘Time’ is so strong in this extract that by the time the character is introduced he comes automatically clothed (for me) in a long coat and a top hat. Possibly even clutching a walking cane he strides onto the scene so clearly that I can see it as if it were the opening shot of a film. Dressed as he is as in something you would expect from the Edwardian/Victorian era, this brings me to the second strong theme in this extract, ‘Place’.

We are given a location, ‘the warren between New Bond Street and Avery Row’, which to most readers will say ‘London’. A maze of streets, dark, full of swirling snow, this is an easy thing to ask a reader to picture. We can already imagine walking through the snow having been primed by the authors previous mention of ‘ice crackling underfoot’. As we, with the character described, see the lights garlanding our destination we are even told how they make us feel, how they draw us in. This is a clever use of language to manipulate the readers engagement and something which it took me quite a few read-throughs to notice. The lights are mentioned four times within four consecutive sentences. this intentional repetition reinforces the visualisation.

The third theme which I noticed is ‘Emotion’. At the start of the extract the author begins to remind us of the excitement that is felt in the run-up to Christmas. Most people have happy recollections of Christmas no-matter what their individual variation of it actually looks like. By staying traditional and generic with his use of festive references Dinsdale allows every reader to interpret these emotional triggers with their own details. When I was small we never had a goose, and my parents routinely chose the more practical approach of cooking a mass of legs and breasts as opposed to a whole bird. Despite this the mere mention or sight of a goose roast dinner sends my inner child giddy at the prospect of Christmas and all it’s associated fun. All these early references are designed to trigger positive emotions. On sighting The Emporium with its garlands of light we are instructed on how to react, we are told that we are ‘captivated’, ‘bewitched’ and ‘drawn in’. Fairy lights are another traditionally cheerful festive association, town centres even hold events when the lights are officially switched on! It is at this point that Dinsdale introduces the contrast of the character and his emotions. Whereas the goose being described as getting fat was a positive association, the nameless man is described alternately as ‘a barrel’, ‘portly’ and ‘corpulent’. These are more negative word choices which lead into the direct contrast between the positive sights and smells of the Emporiums interior vs the negative Christmas memories that they trigger within the man.

Writing in the second person allows the narrative to further envelop the reader, it feels as though we are in the scene itself alongside the character. I think it is this factor which makes the scene so vivid for me personally. I feel like I could storyboard the beginning of this as a film quite easily. More generically the use of a second person narration allows the reader to focus on the sense of place being generated by the text, senses are stimulated through triggered memories. When these are positive memories there will be increased external buy-in. This in turn allows greater engagment when the character is introduced.

The juxtaposition of the positive Christmas atmosphere that Dinsdale has created with someone who seems to have negative attitudes towards it is designed to intrigue, what has happened to this character that he can not only withstand the positive triggers which we the reader are subjected too, but further, can give them a negative overtone? Although in such a short extract there can be no real sense of the plot of the story, the building structure of the opening has already given the reader something to discover, the reason for the mans negativity and hopefully, the pathway to his recovery.

I find Dinsdales writing, specifically the way he can create such immersive scenes, utterly enchanting. The themes are explored alongside the plot allowing the reader to pay as much attention to them as they choose. When I initially read this book I was concentrating purely on the plot line, but having completed this Part 2 of the Creative Arts Today module, and having learnt so much about particularly The Heroes Journey and poetic devices, I will certainly be reading it again soon!

Word count: 1,137

Dinsdale,R. Published 08 Feb 2018. The Toymakers. Penguin Books. United Kingdom.

Part Two

To conclude I am to write a commentary of about 500 words, drawn from my learning log and notes, reflecting on what I have learned in this part of the course and how I have put this into practice in my assignment piece.

The main thing that I have taken from this part of the module has been a greater awareness of poetic devices. I had always just assumed that poetic devices were restricted to poems themselves, now that various exercises have pointed out to me quite how obviously they are used in a variety of applications I am surprised that I have never noticed them before!

I was also intrigued to learn about how many different sort of poetic device there are and how they are key to constructing a good narrative within a novel. Since working through this module I have become more aware of what I am reading and how it has been constructed, this in turn has heightened my enjoyment of the text because now I can identify why I am finding it so immersive. Using this knowledge I was able to return to the extract of text and find a new level of appreciation for the skill with which it has been put together.

I was also surprised at how poetic some extracts of novels are when taken in isolation. I’ve never particularly liked poems, I’ve always thought of them as pointless, following this section of the module this is an opinion which I will have to re-visit.

A skill which I have learnt from this module is that of analysis or close reading. Trying to spot the different poetic devices felt like quite an enjoyable game and I’ve found myself looking for them in other items that I have been reading. It’s assisted me in identifying why I find some authors good and others not to my taste. Having learnt to carry out close reading I spent some time studying the extract properly and highlighting all the uses of poetic device that I could identify. I used the same technique to pick out where the different themes were introduced and incorporated.

When I’d successfully identified them I was able to establish a hierarchy and look for what I believe the author wanted to make most prominent. The themes of time and place were most prominent which would fit with the start of a novel. The most important thing is to establish a scene for a reader and immerse them within it before introducing the action.

I also found it interesting how much an author can say about a character without the reader knowing basic information such as a name or having witnessed any conversation. The extract from ‘The Road’ in Project 4 introduces the reader to a man and boy and through narrative device ensures that the reader forms impressions about them whilst knowing very little. This is another thing that I had never noticed before but will certainly learn from and use in my own work.

Part 1. Project 2. ‘Entrance: Place- The First Of All Things’ Pages 13-14

In this task I am to read an extract from ‘Entrance: Place- The First Of All Things’ and make some notes about how closely related time and place are, in particular when I experience work at an exhibition.

Time and Place are two things that I had never considered together until beginning this module. When I read the two designated pages what struck me most was what the authors state on Pg 14 ‘When space feels thoroughly familiar to us, it has become place’. This is very true and not something I had considered before.

Contents of art works often represent either time or place or a combination of the two. When looking at pieces of art I often find myself transported to a different place either of memory or imagination, this can often go hand in hand with losing track of time in my present location!

I find I’m struggling to generate any further thoughts on these two themes. From having a brief look at other previous students learning logs I see that people have written reams of rather philosophical responses but I’m just not wired up to think in that way.