Initial Project Ideas

For a while now, I have been thinking about what I have at my finger tips to explore in a new body of work. With Covid-19 still rife, I have realised there is so much readily available to me at my doorstep. Growing up and living in Monmouth, a border town between Wales and England, I have been thinking further about the concept of ‘borders’ and ‘boundaries’. 

In a physical sense, throughout history Monmouth has been shuffled and dragged between being English and Welsh. Now, we are comfortably recognised to fall into the Welsh side of the border (Britannica, nd). Whilst Covid restrictions are still in place, and I am unable to interact and photograph others, I want to explore this border in the landscape, by walking and photographing exact points where Wales meets England. This could be through rivers, bridges, roads or mountains ect.

Literally just down the road from my home is the Offa’s Dyke Path, historically the path was constructed in the 8th Century, to divide King Offa’s Kingdom from other rival Kingdoms, marking a “threshold between Anglo-Saxons and Celts” (Smith, 2020) - or the “unruly Welsh” (English Heritage, nd). The 177 mile walk starts at the Severn Estuary near Chepstow and ends at Prestatyn in North Wales, the path crosses the current national border between England and Wales over 20 times. The trail was once the national border, but these days the actual border has drifted slightly. I want to explore both of these borders - new and old. I have not done a huge amount of landscape work in the past and this theme is actually really exciting to me to get out and explore my local surroundings. 

I could also explore the elements that makes Monmouth either Welsh or English, we are prominently an English speaking town, but we are taught Welsh in school and all of our road signs are in both English and Welsh. I am interested in aside from physically, what makes us Welsh or English? How many residents class themselves as English or Welsh? Both parties can be very patriotic, therefore creating tension between the two, is this something we see a lot in Monmouth?

In a more metaphorical sense, I am going to explore the other kinds of borders within my community. For example, the borders of class and wealth, which of course you see in almost all communities, however this is highlighted further in Monmouth through the two large private schools and the comprehensive state school right in the middle. There are of course wealthier and poorer areas within the town, but this blend is often juxtaposed when you see a very expensive car parked alongside your more average run down one in the high street. 

Exploring the high street is another aspect I am interested in, is it successful? is it dying? Monmouth has plenty of charity shops and coffee shops, but amongst those how is the local high street thriving? Do we rely on larger chain stores or do the independent shops keep the town alive? 

Currently the pandemic has taken a huge toll on our high streets as lockdowns across the nation has meant many shops and businesses classed as ‘non essential’ have had to close, leaving Monmouth quiet and ghost like. Covid has also had an effect on Monmouth as a border town as more recently Wales and England have had different rules, which makes it difficult for those living on the border to know which to go by. Those living just over the border in the Forest of Dean still come to shop in Monmouth as it is closer for them than travelling to Gloucester or Ross.. how can we class this as wrong or right? In Redbrook, just up the road from Monmouth, the village is “split by the River Wye which follows the border” (Hughes, 2020), from October 2020 pubs on either side of the river had to follow different rules due to being of differing sides of the border, so whilst one could open its doors to customers, the other in plain view could not. Similarly in Chepstow, whilst being a Welsh town, it is the nearest town for many English villages separated only by a bridge. During the madness that 2020 has been, “the border has suddenly taken on a new significance” (Hughes, 2020) and has become a point of conflict for some people and businesses. 

There are many elements to this project idea, all of these questions I have asked myself can take me down many different path ways and who knows where this project may go. Firstly however, to make a start I want to focus on landscapes where the border meets in different places. 

On a dog walk the other day I walked along the River Wye, across an old Iron Bridge looking towards the old viaduct. This made me think about old borders and how this area used to be connected by train to other parts of the country. The viaduct, now unfortunately ruined and falling apart, is a beautiful structure and the views that train passengers had must have been breathtaking. I find it such a shame that it is no longer in use and we no longer have a railway line in Monmouth. The theme of borders in this image is shown through the viaduct, as a physical track that leads people across borders, but as it is rundown and no longer in use it also suggests a boundary that can no longer be crossed. 

  • Britannica. (nd) Monmouthshire. Available at: (Accessed on: 7th February 2021)
  • English Heritage. (nd) History of Offa’s Dyke. Available at: (Accessed: 7th February 2021)
  • Hughes, J. (2020) The Welsh border crossings you might not realise exist - but risk being fined for crossing. Available at: (Accessed: 8th February 2021)
  • Hughes, M. (2020) Life on the border of Wales and England where two different lockdowns are separated by just a few steps. Available at: (Accessed on: 7th February 2021)
  • National Trail. (nd) Offa’s Dyke Path. Available at: (Accessed: 7th February 2021)
  • Smith, O. (2020) Offa’s Dyke: Britain’s unmarked ‘no-man’s land’. Available at: (Accessed: 8th February 2021)

Methods and Meaning

This weeks topic ‘Methods and Meaning’ covers the technical strategies we use when making bodies of work and subsequently how we choose to display and distribute it afterwards. These choices are hugely relevant in how viewers will feel about and respond to the work. 

We were first asked to think about ‘faux pas’ within photography, something we would traditionally consider a mistake or ‘wrong’ but in doing so, actually creates something entirely new and interesting because of its faults. 

The given example was of Jean-Marie Donat’s project ‘Predator’ where she has collected an archive of old photographs where the shadow of the photographer is included within the foreground of a portrait of someone else (Marsh, 2015). Traditionally we would usually avoid this, as the shadow may ‘ruin’ the composition of the image. It also breaks ‘the fourth wall’ (Ebrahim, 2018) between viewer, subject and photographer where we get a glimpse of who is behind the camera instead of solely the subject in front, the presence of the photographer makes us aware the scene may be staged in some way rather than a natural true to life image. 

Donat’s ‘Predator’ collection only includes images where the photographers shadow is wearing a hat, the hat is what’s important “because you end up thinking it’s the same person - the same man in every photo” (Marsh, 2015). This gives the series such an eery feel that honours its title - you no longer recognise the shadow as a photographer but instead as the Predator.

The theme of photography faux pas led to me think about images I had discovered last summer when sorting out my late mothers studio, including boxes and boxes of old photographs, some from when I was little, but mainly before I was born. I remembered some photographs with double exposures, whether done accidentally or purposefully they created really interesting results.

This is an image of my older sister when she was little, with a double exposure on top looking upstairs to a painting on the landing. It takes some looking to work it out and understand what is what, but I think it is that confusion that makes the image quite powerful. The innocence of a sleeping child in the centre, with this chaotic overlapping creating an eery sense to these otherwise simple images. I unfortunately couldn’t find it but I recall another shot of a Cornish seascape with my sister on a swing super imposed on top. I think these ‘accidental’ shots actually make such interesting images and can evoke such sentimental and romanticised feelings of the past, or even more eery and atmospheric versions, despite being technically ‘messy’. A double exposure creates another layer to an image and another dimension of meaning, creating surreal works with different levels of significance and symbolism.

“I like the multi layeredness you get with double exposure.  There’s also a dreamlike sense, or perhaps something about the environment that will shape the child.  There’s something about transitoriness too.  It calls to mind the way childhood memories don’t necessarily form a coherent linear pattern, aren’t concrete, but are fleeting visual vignettes, flashbacks, montages.”

This was a response from one of my peers, a very powerful observation. I look back at the image again and it conveys elements of the human condition. The sleeping child clouded with other elements in the image does suggest a dream like state but jarred and jagged, the memories aren’t ‘concrete’ they ebb and flow between reality and distorted echoes of recollection. 

I also found this shot of myself as a baby, with my mother and sister.

The image has come out technically fine, except with a light leak on the left. This obviously happens accidentally on film cameras, light leaking on to the negatives and ruining a ‘clean’ shot. However, now in the digital age we tend to see them used creatively, digitally added in to give a ‘vintage’ feel. We choose to add in a technical fault in order to create a desired effect, in order to evoke sentimental feelings.

In my previous project ‘Home’ I used personal archival shots alongside my own work in order to convey feelings of change and loss. The project was about the loss of my mother, and how my family home served as a memory of her. The use of both archival images and my own photography created this balance between past and present, how everything I photographed and saw within my home connected to a memory I had of her. I think I made this project when the loss was very fresh, and there are successful elements, but I can also see flaws that I didn’t initially see when making the work. This way of working was purposeful and despite its flaws, it is of course still very important to me, it is very emotive and successfully conveys the memories of my mother and my childhood imprinted into my home. 

When creating this project, one of the works I was inspired by was Dinu Li’s ‘The Mother of All Journeys’, where he retraced the journeys his mother took from China to Hong Kong and eventually to England. Li uses a mix of old family photos as well as new photographs, documenting significant places of his mothers past but as they are today. I was inspired by this work because it used old family snapshots, which we would usually not give much artistic worth too, yet working alongside Li’s own photography it became “a meditation on the interplay of photography, time, distance, and memory” (Leonard, date unknown). Viewing the archive shots alongside his new work creates a physical timeline for viewers to understand, it encourages us to think about what has happened in the time between. This is exactly what I was projecting in my own work. 

  • Ebrahim, S. (2018) Photography | The Fourth Wall. Available at:,is%20considered%20a%20meta%2Dfictional (Accessed: 3rd February 2021)
  • Leonard, C. (date unknown) The Mother of All Journeys. Available at: (Accessed on: 6th February 2021)
  • Marsh, T. (2015) Polar Bears and Blackface: Jean-Marie Donat Has Collected Over 10,000 Creepy Old Photos. Available at: (Accessed: 3rd February 2021)

Mirrors and Windows

My first module, Positions & Practice, is the initial research for my project(s) I am going to create throughout the journey of this course. It has been designed to make us question and be critical of our work so far, and to recognise where our practice falls within the broad contexts of professional contemporary photography allowing us to establish where we want to take our work and practice moving forward. 

Our first theme to get us thinking is ‘Mirrors and Windows’. We were asked to respond to this theme and explain our concept and/or visual strategy.
Mirrors and windows is a theme that can be taken literally - shooting through windows, using the frame to frame the shot, using it as context or perspective to the landscape or subject matter, or using the light from a window, looking in or looking out. Using mirrors you can capture reflections, you can use them to see beyond whats just in front of you, you could take self portraits.
Or, you can view the theme in a metaphorical sense. Mirrors and windows can be the gateway to another world, taking you away from what you know, the reflections might be distorted or broken, abstract, other worldly, unrecognisable. You may begin to see just shape and pattern and not understand what is actually being captured. Or the metaphor can be more complex, what does a window or mirror represent? how is it being used in the composition to convey a certain feeling? why have they been included?

I have chosen this portrait of Jackie, from my BA final major project ‘Spiritual Spaces’ as my contribution to this discussion. In this project I explored what ‘spirituality’ meant to different individuals, meeting with Witches, artists, Shamans and even a High Priestess - fascinating people all in their own right. The common ground between all of these people were connections to paganism, and to the earth and landscape, but what I really learnt is that spirituality is a very personal and individual concept. We all take elements that we connect with and form our own belief. 

This image uses windows and light to convey a certain feeling. I must admit, I would consider myself lucky with this shot - we were sat chatting and I just noticed how beautifully the light came through the window on to Jackie, giving this ethereal and calming feel. Suddenly my theme of spirituality was shining down right in front of my eyes. It seemed to just completely sum up the time I spent with Jackie and the discussions we had about our own belief. 
I have, unknowingly, used a window in both a literal and metaphorical sense here. The soft light beautifully draws your eyes into my subject, yet the light signifies a lot more about whats makes her who she is. 

Mirrors and windows are used as a tool in photography constantly, they challenge both the photographer and the viewer and evoke certain feelings. Once you first notice this theme, you will begin to see it everywhere. Not just within photography but within life, I find myself constantly drawn to the pattern and shapes found within reflections. These below images are from the first year of my BA. Two from a project about Birmingham New Street Station and the latter from Tewkesbury fair.

This analogy is so deeply embedded within the nature of photography, because it can mean so much - in so many different ways - depending how the photographer wants you to view it. I naturally use windows and mirrors within my work and I think I identify with them both in all kinds of ways. I tend to prefer working with natural light, and so these become tools as well as meaning.

Metaphors are used within photography all the time “to elucidate experience” (Hostetler, 2004). Symmetry can be used as a metaphor, we tend to see it in landscape photography to evoke a sense of peace, calm and serenity. On the other hand, if you use symmetry in a more artistic and abstract way it can project chaos and drama. 

People and the human condition is my motivation for photography, I am fascinated by individual characters and how we choose to portray ourselves, through our environments, clothing, jobs, etc. I want to understand what makes us who we are, maybe this will leave room for turning the lens on myself and self reflect through a self portrait, which I have always found intimidating. However, maybe this is exactly what I need to do in order to have a greater understanding about my practice. 

Hostetler, L. (2004) The Structure of Photographic Metaphors. Available at: (Accessed: 30th January 2021). 

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