Project 3: Photographing the Unseen

Metaphor and the three Case studies

I’ve followed Pete Mansell and Dewald Botha’s blogs and also went to see the Exhibition in Sheffield last year where their work was shown with that of four other graduate students. It was good to have seen the development of their work over extended period with the final celebration of the Exhibition. I first became aware of Jodie Taylor’s work from the WeAreOCA post linked in the Handbook.

Peter Mansell

In the interview Pete talks of becoming attracted towards speaking visually about things that were important to him rather than creating beautiful or spectacular pictures in order to meet a course requirement. He refers to his images thus becoming more mundane in terms of subject matter , whilst showing aspects of his life that others don’t see. He says, “…this form of expression often saw me through pain and anguish whilst the end product acted as a visual statement about my existence and that experience”. To me his images act as a witness – this is my life. Pete also talks about his process – having a general objective and a loose framework that allows room for experimentation and serendipity. This is a way that I’ve already found works for me. The format is important to him as well in terms of using this to evoke different feelings. I’m thinking of lenses and depth of field also.

His images are often graphic – he pulls no punches and yet they draw me in to continue looking and get a sense of the effects of his impairment and also how the environment around him makes it so difficult to move through it. Pete hones in on small details in the equipment and environments that surrounds him and this reinforces the atmosphere he is evoking.

Dewald Botha 

He uses muted, desaturated colours to convey his feelings of being an outsider in the crowded busy life of China in the city of Suzhou. He sees this body of work as a, “metaphor for boundaries and limitations” as he looks for beauty or relief in a fast changing society. Over all lies the perpetual haze that, when I visited as a tourist, I was told was mist – yet I knew it was pollution. What was interesting for me was how Dewald was able to evoke that sense of being ‘stuck’ in his place whilst producing haunting images. The distance, without people, and the framing, puts me in an observer stance and gave me a sense of loneliness. The continuing question for me was how Dewald continued to stay in that place, in that Country, when it was so obviously alien to him. In fact he has now left there.

Jodie Taylor

Jodie’s work struck immediate bells with me because I have long intended to create a Project around Reconnections with scenes of my childhood. I was interested in how she approached the work at that particular time, looking at the environments where she used to play with and meet other kids and placing them in a small album reminiscent of those times. She’s much younger than I am but it reminded me of my own childhood playing on my home street.

It’s been fortuitous that I’ve now been able to see the outcome of all the work done for Advanced because WeAreOCA posted a video of Jesse Alexander talking about the way she has presented all the Assignments and used different forms of presentation for each.. See here. In terms of all the work the video emphasizes the coherence of the 5 assignments, how they show progression over time and how appropriate the different methods of presentation used are. They comprise 6×4 prints in an album, in a vernacular style; postcards in envelopes; experimentation with 3D imaging and a book. I’ve also been able to access her blog for the Module and seen the extent of her planning, research and experimentation.


The three projects resonate in different ways. Pete’s work gave me insight into his life, what he has to contend with and the barriers that stand in his way. The close-up detail emphasizes this. Dewald’s work gave me a different viewpoint on China so that I was seeing it though his eyes. Jodie’s work evoked my own childhood for me and brought it alive in my mind, even though I lived in a different kind of neighbourhood. Her different modes of presentation also add to that sense of exploration and experimentation.

Regarding loss of authorial control. I’m quite happy with that. It shows that my images have had an effect and the work is open enough to allow for the viewer to step in and take some ownership of it as well.

31st March 2015