Critical Review of Practice – Prior Work

This was a challenge. Two factors helped make progress. The first was interpreting ‘practice’ to mean the project for this module. I had mistakenly taken it to mean my complete practice of photography. Steph enlightened me. Also in a Q&A session Steph made it clear that there are no marks in CRP for any work done prior to this module. This helped and hindered. It helped as it immediately enabled me to remove 1200 words. It hindered as the critical contextualisation of my work for this module grew out of work done in prior modules. Steph suggested instead of deleting it I include it in my CRJ.

Before the MA I was an accomplished landscape and essay photographer with my work in Tuscany being published in the Royal Photographic Society’s Spring Landscape Magazine in 2018. Although aesthetically pleasing I soon confirmed with Jesse Alexander this genre of work was considered academically insignificant, derivative of work done before and adding little to the discipline of Photography.

The Trace of Self

In this approach I took a heightened emotional experience as a trigger to take out my camera and point it at me. I was surprised to find that often the image produced did not show me what I thought I was experiencing. Often at times of deep despair I appeared to be a perfectly functioning human being with little evidence on the surface of what was taking place inside me.

Bertillon in 1893 argued that ‘personality types were revealed by cranial and facial features.’ Individuals were prosecuted or classified as a result of his work. I found my appearance did not reflect my internal state or behaviour. Bertillon work was later supplanted by the fingerprint but his legacy remains in the form of the ‘the mug shot.’

I studied photographers who had success suggesting emotion in their images.  A great example is David Heath’s ‘Dialogues with Solitude’ whose images are poignant and simple.  I project emotions on to the images and the subjects may not be feeling what I project but I strongly believe that they do.

© David Heath (2028) Dialogues with Solitude

Vanessa Winship’s work ‘And Time Folds’ crafts the moods and feelings of those who view it.  I saw her work beside Dorothea Lange at the Barbican in 2018 and felt emotionally drained at the end of my three hour contemplation of her images.  Her work is a show like the best theatre.  It draws the viewer in, raises questions that do not have easy answers and is an enriching experience.  As in theatre the actors or, in our case, the images play with the thoughts and emotions of her audience.

© Vanessa Winship (2018) Time Folds

I realised photography is as much about a performance in the mind of the viewer as it is about capturing a version of reality.  Much like theatre the performance can be a portrayal of a truth or can be a metaphor to make some point.  I experimented producing images of myself and then considering the impact they would have on a viewer.

This led me to look at practioners’ who brought an element of performance to their work. I saw Elina Brotherus exhibition in PhotoEspaña 2019 in Madrid and met her to talk to. Her work is effective at expressing pain and unhappiness. As she says referring to her work ‘I worked the pain in to a beautiful object that could be looked at detached from myself.’ I asked her which of the many performances on the gallery wall best represented her to which she replied ‘none of them, they are photographs.’

© Elena Brotherus

Other photographers influenced me as my practice developed including Jo Spence for her use of self and shock to grab attention with topics usually avoided (her breast cancer shot face on).  Nan Golding’s use of her community around her along with performance and Annenke Asseff’s use of self in her home environment. A lot of creative work was inspired by these practitioners and I happily remember my wife laughing a lot as she helped me with some of these shoots.

Spence and Golding got me to push at some of my own boundaries. Photographing myself nude and showing the images was one of these boundaries. I learnt that the boundary was not real and that it was a constraint I put on myself and could as easily remove.

© Len Williamson (2019)

All this work exploring trace of self was the precursor for the decision to explore trace with absence. In my FMP I will incorporate both and use the strengths of each.


Winship, V.  (2018) Vanessa Winship. And time folds. [Catalogue of an Exhibition held at the Barbican Art Gallery 22nd June to 2nd September, 2018.]  London.  Barbican Art Gallery

Heath, D. (2018).  Dialogues with Solitude. Premier Edition.  Germany. Steidl.

Categories: Coursework IC


I am a Photographer. As well as taking many photographs I am currently studying for an MA in Photography at Falmouth University. I will direct my attention through the lens of my camera for the next couple of years and see what shows up. I see a photograph as a little bit of magic capturing a moment in time. If successful it surprises and engages your emotions. It tells a story about the wonders of being alive or tells us what we need to change to make it a better world to live in. That is enough for me to get going and then like walking a 1000 miles, which I did across the UK in 2010, or walking 200 miles across Cyprus, which I did in November last year, it is one step at a time.

I was a writer. The title of my unpublished book was ‘You Would Have Done The Same.' It is about a successful guy in love with his wife who lets her die when he discovers her in the process of committing suicide. The title gives a clue as to what I think you would have done. The book is 200 pages long. I found it cathartic to write it but after two years of work and reviewing with agents decided it probably needed another 2000 hours to get the whole book up to the standard of some of the pages. Writing is great but it is a lot of sitting down so I decided to get out and walk, play tennis, play bridge, go birding, watch football at Nottingham Forest, Arsenal and Valencia and anywhere else if I can, meditate, cook and eat. I was a writer who has so far failed to become an author.
I was a young man who loved Mathematics and thoroughly enjoyed getting a BSc at Liverpool University. While there I went often to Anfield and the Philharmonic Hall. I was all set on doing a PhD until I went for interview practice at BP and got seduced by the excitement of an International business career. BP was a great adventure building trading teams and businesses in London, Antwerp, Cleveland Ohio and Singapore. Fabulous people and some great challenges and also very hard work, constant jet lag and lots of fun along the way. I married Karen, my stunning wife, and had the most amazing time with her and our three boys Alex, Tom and Dan. She has multiple sclerosis and we have taken on many challenges together but somehow keep creating a new normal against the horrors thrown our way. She is the love of my life.

After BP I decided to coach senior executives and quickly realized I had a lot to learn
about what makes people tick. I had a fantastic 18 months on the International Programme of the Cleveland Gestalt Institute. A great faculty and a
wonderful group of people on the programme. We studied and worked in Dingle, Singapore, Holland, Cape Town and
Lisbon. This also got me interested in the way we think and make decisions so I studied for an MSc in Psychology atUniversity College London in 2010. The
Masters was in Cognitive and Decision Sciences and I found it fascinating what
we do know but also how much we don’t know about how we think and make

I loved coaching and making a difference. I got a number of people to hear themselves, remove some of their own chains and free up the way they thought about the world. I remain fascinated by how people react to and engage with the world. My Masters thesis was why do two people given the same information make different decisions? Put simply, it is because each of us are unique in the way we are constructed.

Since returning from Singapore I found English winters tough so moved to Spain where I now live. The people are lovely, the scenery amazing, food delicious and the sun shines all the time. Almost.

All of these experiences will feed in to my time now as a Photographer. Three motivations I am lucky to have are enthusiasm, curiosity and a continuous interest in learning. All the time I look forward to meeting old friends and making new friends and experiencing this wonderful life together.