the presence of others

one of two crits of my assignment images around In an office at night involved the following discussion about

a. the spaces where I work and what constitutes my work

b. how to work with others in the context of a not-quite-private/ not-quite-public office space.

– I am posting these notes here as I’m currently thinking of looking at digital selves in relation to negotiating the blurring of public/private spaces as the subject for my critical essay (Part 3: we are all photographers now).

a. Where do I work and what constitutes my work:

The manual montages of In an office at night give a sense of where my workspace is: it is wherever I open my notebook. This act of opening the notebook becomes a symbol for something much bigger: a door open, the making of a space in which I work.

What is image and what is practice in this short series?

Taking the print outs to an academic setting, e.g., the office where they were originally shot is going to suggest that I will reflect on them: I reposition them to then re-engage with them. The act of having picked up the printouts on the way to the coffee shop to then look at them is a different one: possibly emergent, spontaneous. From this act then a reflection, development ensues, but it is less premeditated than if I had fixed another appointment within that office space.

In the coffee shop a sequence developed of:

taking a look, annotating, taking another look, then taking a picture, writing a note. Then: to return the next day to develop this process further. It’s about myself, my working practice, taking notes, taking images… its a work process rather than a planned performance.

If I had taken the same set of prints to the university, it would have not just been about notes and annotation but about the how the context influenced how I would take notes in the notebook: the institutional frame would have been more extensive, stable and possibly also controlling (though it would be interesting to examine where it could be enabling also): this act would have been the performance of a planned idea; an intervention in a wider institutional context.


b. present/absent others in the blurred public/private space of an office

When meeting my colleague in her shared office, one of her office mates was out, the other one, A., was present. She offered to leave, a part of me would have liked that but it didn’t seem my place to suggest, or rather: I had asked for a time when H.’s colleagues would be out and if that was possible to arrange; so any of this negotiation I left to my colleague as it was her space and her colleagues; A. told us fairly quickly that she had noise-cancelling headphones on. So: as my colleague had said, her office is never empty. And I was interested in finding out what that publicness would do to my plan of a conversation with photos.

So, the office at night is not a private space but has always a publicness to it: you do not know who may walk in the door; in fact, the door was open throughout my time there. Similarly: the way to and from the office was also public, though I did not meet anyone at that time.

I was conscious of the presence of a third person in our conversation; or: possibly not so much in the conversation but in the approach towards taking photos. I had taken my slr and tripod but quickly decided that performing the photographer for considered stills was not something to do without privacy (this was clearly my edge, my uncertainty, amplified by a third presence; it may well have been not possible just with H. and myself on our own either). I had considered this possibility before and had good reasons for just using the handheld cameras (iphone, Minox) and was happy with that procedure as the image production was in that way more closely folded into the conversation itself.

During the discussion of my first images, this acknowledgement of how that public/private will manifest itself in practice and in situ was really helpful: to bring it to the fore and to make it part of the investigation – be it for future Office conversation, any possible reworking of the assignment set, or in fact for a topic for the critical essay.






subject: images taken in your office

To: L; a
Cc: H
images taken in your office


hi A and L,
hi H

— I realised when talking to A earlier this week that I haven’t done something in order to clarify the use of the work that I have been doing around my current project (in an office at night) to do with overwork, desire and (not)work. for this project, I met with H in your shared office one evening and we talked about the themes and also used a methodology of jointly taken photos. the images were taken on an analogue camera and my phone, H has since seen the phone images but not, in detail, the analogue ones (as I don’t have a full contact sheet of them yet) – so in this sense, H: the below applies also to you for the images you haven’t seen yet.

The project (like other current work of mine) is pursuing the edge of public/private, and while I realise that that is a current concern of mine I also know that it involves transgressions (feared or actual), most notably if I work with lens-based media and its rich and cumbersome traditions of voyeurism and exhibitionism. I like to attend to and work with this transgressive discomfort in whatever way possible (and some of that attention will be clumsy, no doubt; as well as possibly an imposition on others). I feel that I negotiated that process well with H and the material and forms we employed; I was also conscious of being in someone else’s office as a not quite private, not quite public space; that registered with how and what photos I took (and notably didn’t take), and it also was in one way or another done with/by H (in her shared office); there are a number of images in the full set that blur out/ spill over into your spaces/ presence, and I wanted to ask you to let me know if there are any images in this set you don’t want me using in future.

The images that require for me a confirmation that you are okay with them existing and being used are most notably:
– row 5/ img 4: showing the names on your office door — I will obscure these/ overlay them in any case; I would love to be able to use that img with such an overlay.
– any image that shows A;
– any image that shows A’s desk and shelf space; with the latter, I would really like to use the images that show the duvet bin bag as well as row5/ img 3 which includes A’s hands.

And then there will be others in the set that don’t register as sensitive to me but may be to you.

As for the use of these images: at the moment it sits fairly contained within an educational context, as part of my current undergrad degree course. Some of the images I have made from these are here: [it’s one of several posts but has links to all others].

At the same time, I have the sense that this project could become fairly long and expanded… I am quite excited by the issues it raises and how it seems to be able to bring together some of my academic interests and visual strategies and theories… so it could potentially involve various more interviews in other offices at night, and it thus may in future acquire different public forms.

I would like to ask you to have a look at the image which shows all images of that shoot and to let me know if you want any of these removed, restricted, obscured or similar: and please do let me know if that is the case. And if the image quality is too poor, I can also send on digital files for individual images.

I appreciate that you will have lots of other things to do at this time of year; so, I would like to suggest that if I don’t hear back from you until 10 January 2016, that the images (plus the above proposed anonymisation of row5/img4) are okayed for usage from your side.

Link to dropbox photo file:

Thanks so much and all the best,

Assignment 1: In an office at night – Digital montage (WIP)



These are the two digital files that I have been working on.

– I will write up more of the conceptual thoughts in the final assignment submission: in the main, I was trying to get to some sense of

a) the overwhelming, spilling out and over of that space and the work (as in knowledge production) that happens within this space and within the conversation between my colleague and myself.

b) a sense of the conversation and the relational work between author – subject – viewer: to include both of the participants in the conversation in the image; to reposition us within the frame and possibly also the viewer (though maybe that is open to question).





In an office at night: digital 1

Entirely made up of Minox images (i.e. images that I took just by myself); processed and then scanned with a Hasselblad scanner; processing of digital file, the layering; the layering is fairly seamless and discrete, i.e. that the image is constructed isn’t immediately obvious.

I love the tonality of this image and am surprised how much it references Hopper’s Office at Night.


In an office at night: digital 2

Digital 1 does not contain any of the images that we took jointly on the iphone, so it actually does not contain the process that I had identified as key; this was mainly what led me to produce the second image; the interest is similar: to show relationality, the layering of author – subject – viewer within the picture plane; even more so than in digital 1 I altered scale; the iphone jpgs are much flatter in hue than the Minox scans, I altered the background to reference again Hopper’s palette (changing gamma in exposure); relatively late I chose to add another layer of outside to it by rephotographing the screen with my hand in the foreground.

Both images are non-standard ratios; the Minox one is expanded on the horizontal, digital 2 is shortened… I find that significant… just need to spell out the why for it.

I have shown these images (and the manual montages) in two settings and had very useful feedback for them; there are a few minor changes to make for both of them and then they are good to go.

— There is much in this series and project for me, and this first assignment has covered some useful ground as to the reasons for montaging and how to go about it; but also: rescaling, repositing/ rephotographing and thus starting to both fold context into the picture plane and let the picture plane bleed out into the context. In this sense, I can see this final images of this assignment changing a fair bit between now and assessment time.

Assignment 1: In an office at night – manual montages (maybe wip/ maybe final)


There are three sets of images coming out of the In an office at night project:

a) the individual images produced on iphone and Minox during the conversation

b) a set of manual montages of the above

c) a digital montage, see WIP post here

— The rationale for the project is here; a pilot from my own office here.

While undecided over showing the whole contact sheet for the shoot, I am here showing the first set of images created (b, the manual montages). The process of creation was rather spontaneous: in a different working space of mine, the coffee shop near my office. I had taken a first spontaneous photo of assembling the Minox prints; and gone back a couple of days later to explore it further.

Here are the images (no particular order):

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

There is a sense of them being temporary, fleeting: they can be arranged and rearranged; opening my notebook and taking out the images means I am in an office space and working; the marble of the table and the ceiling light create some dislocation; the high gloss surface of the prints has fingerprints that reflect alongside the ceiling light.

1_2 through a digital lens: final image

following the outline for the office at night, I firstly did a series of photos and montages based on my own office at night: to trial different approaches towards working with the space itself, my own place within it (as author and subject), to then develop a methodology for the conversational photo shoot in my colleague’s office.

I pursued two different forms of images:

a) a panorama of my office space (including all the space surrounding my actual office: living in a small flat, the rest of the room is in fact my bedroom).

b) a series of close-ups of the desk space and around.

The image construction became experimental… I started without being clear what kind of image I was pursuing; but realised in the process that I was intent on doubling, flipping and overlaying the office: to let it expand, spill out, mingle with the rest of the room (and myself).

The visit to Thomas Demand’s show The Dailies gave me the idea to reposit my image back into the space itself: he had created a unique wallpaper for the gallery space based on the model of the gallery that he had constructed in preparation for the show. So: we, as visitors, became in fact subjects within that previous model and experienced the wallpaper (and its lighting, no repeat extravaganza) as if we were in fact inside his model.

I chose to mock up the large panorama on cheap photocopy paper: the material with which I actually print out from my office, the material that is available and abundant; and which resonated for part of the improvisation that characterises my own office space and its doubling roles.

I tried various positions (grids, continuous image, different height in relation to bed) before settling on this slight doubling of a fairly low placed print, photographed slightly from below to give a sense of spatial distance towards the the top of the print; I wanted to move the night-time office to the daytime, though in a subdued natural light.

in my office at day
in my office at day


Two other images produced for this exercise is a diptych showing an overlay of the various photographs produced with (b) as the close-ups around the desk space. I like the image it produces on its own, though I don’t have a strong sense of the conceptual import of the image, and find it thus less salient than the above; the diptych is a reference to Burgin’s Office but it seems too complicated as it currently stands, still… possibly something for later:

my office at night (diptych)
my office at night (diptych)

There is a third image that I have made, I find it successful, and it unsettles me. So, it’s not my final image for this exercise, but it is one to keep for later. I think the unsettling has to do with its perspective: it views down onto the bed, reveals more of the bedding and, in doing so, adds desire to the connotation (and it’s quite possibly not Burgin’s epistemophilia, the desire for knowledge). I am intrigued as to how that little shift in gaze changes the connotation for me so strongly:

in my office at day (variation)
in my office at day (variation)



course interests and public purposes

i have been busy with my first assignment: the material from my office at night shoot and interview is slowing being analysed, turned over into stacks, ordered and reordered, located and dislocated.

i have also been busy reading through the numerous links and resources for this course section. that feels unusual compared with all the previous courses: i always felt that i was doing a lot of reading around, looking and investigating other artists’, visiting shows etc; and still i find that i am struggling to make it through the various texts and links. or rather: the material itself is, except for a few, rather short: they are often exhibition reviews and newspaper texts, so nothing lengthy. still i seem to struggle; this struggle is with making sense of all this information and varied input while finding useful ways of how it can become part of my assignment work: i.e. striking a balance of being open for the course materials while having enough focus for a project form that is defined, confined and refined enough to work as the assignment.

[i am also getting the sense that with all this required reading, i am spending less time pursuing my own lines of research and reading… something to observe a little bit more]

i am also developing more of a sense of where this course may be taking me, what its concerns and questions are and which ones are definitely intriguing me, which ones may be intriguing and which i find a bit irritating (and being curious of what that irritation may be about).

at the start of the course i wanted to set two days a week + x aside for this course; so that i would be spending at least 15 hrs a week on the course; for the past six weeks i have begun to designate Mondays and Fridays as days for my project work; and find that this is working well, it is good (and quite a relief) to foreground my own work for these days, and with other work being slow for this last quarter of the year, i find that it is often another day or day and a half that i can make time.

much of the time for the past couple of months has gone into image making (which is great to see, as that was a priority at the start of the course for me) but also figuring out analogue processes and how these can fit in with my interests. this may seem counter-intuitive given the course title but i feel that going back to go forward is often a good approach for me and i have a sense of what a form of integration of analogue and digital may look like for some of the questions of:

authorship – subject/object – viewer

i have a strong sense of what the assignment work will be, part of this is already complete; the digital montage section of it is still ahead of me, and there are a few more steps to conclude before that will be the main focus but i am confident this will be completed within the next two and a half weeks.

course themes and interests

i also see how the course will revisit the various themes of this first part and that is good: there is much in this survey that i will like to revisit and focus on in more detail; i also have a sense that there is plenty of material that is full of potential but needs different approaches to the ones i have so far tried (tentatively); i feel with this assignment that i can develop a methodology of layering, montage that will be meaningful to what i am interested in; i am leaving many of the questions over algorithmic image production, its networking and circulation for the next parts of the course (much of the coursebook texts are concerned with these aspects); i am uncertain what to make of the aesthetic desires at play over much of the digital image production: there seem to be many artists who source found images to create impressionist painting-style photographs… what is this about? similar i am not sure what to think of all these typologies and categories… i wonder if my fascination with Victor Burgin is a rebellious act here.

publication and log

possibly what i am least certain about is this blog. what is its purpose? i find i am hesitant to publish things: for whom and for what purpose (other than to fulfil course criteria)? much my writing happens offline and this is working really well for me, i enjoy it and its functional: in the sense that it is generative, productive, reflective and easily accessed again. for the past couple of months i have been using facebook to discuss some of the thoughts and practices of my work (this work and other work), this is working well for me, as a place to compile, discuss, revisit and also to delete when needed. i similarly have various individual conversations (online/offline) that i find useful. the thing is: much that seems to go onto this blog i wouldn’t necessarily consider worthwhile to make public: it seems mundane in a way that my handwritten blog isn’t.

– i want to see what this means for this format; i see how various students are using their public blog in various ways and often this seems to be working; i am reluctant to only include finished pieces and assignments in this; but i am also reluctant to allocate the time it needs to write a post as long as i’m uncertain as to what the benefits are… will continue to ponder this.


kennardphillipps here comes everybody (visit)


here comes everybody

Stills (31 july – 25 october 2015)

I went to see this show towards the end; kennardphillipps’s show for this years festival also included the War on War room as a live workshop in an empty shop front of a city-centre shopping mall for the duration of the festival. The material created during that time then moved to the gallery space at Stills.

Before the visit I had just begun to read around the lineage of photomontage – section 1_3 (the found image in photomontage) of the course materials and look at a number of the links to both Peter Kennard’s own practice and kennardphillipps (him and Cat Phillipps’ collaborative practice that begun at the start of the 3nd Gulf War in 2003).

With their collaborative practice they intent to ‘dig into the surface of words and images to visualise the connections between the oppressed majority and the political and financial elites of the everyday’ (Stills 2015). – While I wrote this quote down on the way to the exhibition, I wondered about how much sense it made: its notion of (a) artistic practice as revelatory in digging down into word and images; and (b) its terminology of ‘oppression’ and ‘elites’ seemed too conspiratorial a practice; so, here is how the two artists write about their own practice on their website:

The work is made as a critical tool that connects to international movements for social and political change. We don’t see the work as separate to social and political movements that are confronting established political and economic systems. We see it as part of those movements, the visual arm of protest. We want it to be used by people as a part of their own activism, not just as pictures on the wall to contemplate.

There are a whole range of installation shots from the Stills set up on the kennardphillipps’ main site here.

Before seeing the show, I was interested in finding out how they use

  • juxtaposition
  • displacement, and
  • rescaling

– These are the strategies that I had been experimenting with recently and where I felt that photomontage would have much to offer.

The installation of wooden pallets up to the ceiling is the first impression of the room: it is full with stuff.

Many of the images are printed onto newprint; the montages seem straightforward in composition and intent. I am surprised by this; later on, when discussing it a bit further, I realise that it is their adoption of advertising strategies that lies at the heart of this ‘in your face’ simplicity: they seem very different to my first sightings of e.g. Hannah Hoech’s and John Heartfield’s images that are complex, entwined and often also playful – these are all characteristics I don’t find in this show. The message of most images that I can see is that ‘people are suffering while there is immeasurable wealth’.

Several images show evidence of action: e.g., a young man is pushing Cameron out of view; here, the installation and 3-d quality of the piece creates an additional layer of complexity: it casts a large shadow with its crumpled paper, this is the piece that was on show at Banksy’s Dismaland, and installation shot from Stills is here.

It is the pieces ‘being in space’ that seems to intrigue me most: there is a great use of negative space evident throughout the gallery; in the piece already mentioned; but also with hanging a small piece of paper collage from a stick high up in the room, like a weather vane, adjacent to it is a cut out; in a cube created out of pallets, small images of a destroyed buildings are placed far back, almost impossible to make out; there are also prints crumpled up and placed in jam jars.

> consider for your own images the use of negative space in these various examples.

Later on, when reading the resource notes on the artists, I realise how the advertising context comes up again as a place where they tried to situate their work but experienced several instances of censorship: Link 16 (kennardphillipps 2013) – a response by the two artists on the decision of advertising companies not displaying their image of Tony Blair’s selfie is useful in providing insights into their deliberate placing of their own work within advertising and taking on the form of production of advertisements with their own approach towards their images.



kennardphillipps. (2013, October 22). A response from Peter Kennard and Cat Phillips: Censorship is flourishing in our “public spaces.” The New Statesman, 1–5. Retrieved on 30 November 2015 from

Stills (2015) Exhibition text for kennardphillipps here comes everybody; Stills Gallery, Edinburgh, Retrieved on 30 November 2015 from