The stories / background information #1

I have altered Clara’s image again to exclude the address of the photography studio but have left the heraldic crest at the top . I’ve updated the post on my TELLING STORIES blog too.

As suggested by Russell I am going to post background information about the images I use (on this OCA coursework blog not my fictional one) .

The CDV’S I bought from Ebay of the three small girls who were destined to become my fictional sisters; Clara, Violet and Rosebud were described by the seller as being sisters. However there is no actual proof of this except that the images were all taken at the same studio standing by the same props but without any additional evidence their histories and relationships are totally open to interpretation .

The stamp on the back of the images identifies the photographic studio as belonging to W.D May, Photographic Artist.


William David May was born in 1831 and died in 1897. He owned the studio at 69 Wellington Street, Woolwich,London between 1862 until around 1871 when C.J. Farlie acquired the business. The dates might not be totally accurate as I am relying on information found on websites. May additionally owned two other studios in Woolwich prior to the studio at 69; one at 34 Francis Street between 1858-9 and a studio at number 48 Wellington Street during the same period.

So were the photographs taken by May or were they reproduced by Farlie? If they were indeed taken by May that dates the images to before 1871 but for the purpose of my story the sisters were born around the late 1880’s/90’s.

– CDV’s were most popular between 1861-c.1906.
– Were mass produced and easily replicated
– The studio retained the negative hence further copies were easily obtained
– Earlier CDV’s had plainer backs than the more elaborate designs seen later which perhaps suggests mine are older than I thought.
– However towards the latter end of the century once again the backs of ‘later carte de visites ….may be relatively simple , focusing mainly on the photographer’s studio details’ (Shrimpton ,J. p.p 27)
– Clothing clues: by the 1890’s young girls wore sashes and smock style dresses were popular , both Clara and Violet wear this style of clothing.

Therefore I feel it reasonable therefore that the images will make my story appear authentic.

References / Bibliography

Shrimpton, J. (2014) Tracing your Ancestors through Family Photographs. Pen & Sword:Barnsley UK.

Accessed 26/11/17
Accessed 26/11/17

Exercise 4.3

Taking inspiration from an image or idea you’ve researched , create your own photographic response to an internet meme. This may be something original or your own interpretation of an internet meme. It might be funny or profound , but it should make people want to look at it and share it.

I’ve been putting of this particular exercise as I really had no idea how to approach it. However following some recent feedback and suggestions from my tutor I decided to download a stock photo from PEXELS and use it to create what Limor Shifman identifies as a Stock character macro.

In the UK thee people die each day waiting for a organ transplant , over 50,000 are alive thanks to receiving a transplant.

These are a couple of internet images I’ve taken screen grabs of below.


The stock image below has been used for many different memes.

The original image I downloaded from Pexels.

My meme with additional text it’s quite a simple meme but I hope the meaning is perfectly clear.

Tutor feedback on Assignment 4 : Digital Identities 1

I’m really happy with the feedback for Assignment 4 which forms the preliminary stage of the next assignment : Digital Identities 2.

Russell commented:

“A very creative and explorative project, which evidences a engagement with the art of found photography and its manipulation into new narratives”.

The choice to present the assignment , as a separate blog is very good; the justification for this , evidences a contextual awareness and a need to disassociate this new , faux narrative from your current pathway

Russell suggests it might be a good idea , rather than using my own images for ‘the return to my grandparents house’ section on my Telling Stories blog , to use appropriated images. I did wonder about this myself and will amend the section when I have found some suitable photographs.

Another point he made was regarding the image I chose to represent myself “consider its age and possible similarity to the others that represent your Grandmother and Great Aunts. It might be good to source an image that was shot closer to your childhood , perhaps one that is in colour” . I shall choose another image to represent the fictional me but hope I can find a way to include that particular photograph in my assignment as it is one of my favourite appropriated images . I must admit however my heart ruled my head in my choice : I need to be more objective ! Interestingly mostly all of the photographs of the real me are in black and white until the 1960’s so I’m not too confident that I will find a 1950’s colour photograph of a child aged about 4 but will have a look at what I can find that has a more contemporary appearance.

An idea Russell has suggested is to “listen to music from the period of the images” when writing the stories as part of my working process. I rather like this idea; it’s strange but when I was a young 16 year old taking my O level’s I always had music blasting away but as I’ve got older I usually work and write in silence. He thinks it “may further enhance the richness of the mood”. Another idea to consider is creating a slideshow or video clip accompanied by period music , I am really keen to try this but am uncertain about the use of music for personal videos etc and royalty issues so need to investigate this and find out what I can and can’t freely use.

I mentioned at one point when trying out ideas for the assignment I was not intending writing a novel hence I held back on including what I thought might be too much accompanying narrative information but am rather thrilled to told “an area to develop , would be your written description / account of the images. As these represent your childhood , some richer and more sensory descriptions would be good“.

Russell suggests that I include some background information about the cabinet cards I am using for the assignment on my DI&C blog as part of my research ,information about the photographer etc if available. He has kindly included a link to the photographer of the Clara image , I think it might be a good idea to write a bit about my other bought images too. My digitally manipulated image of Clara includes the photographers address and Russell recommends “in proposing these new fabricated narratives , any evidence that could prove them false would need to be removed“. So I need to re-work this particular image , remove the address but “keep ‘The Order of the Garter’ , as that stamp adds historical weighting”

I’ve recently completed Part 4 Project 3 :Memes (stock photo’s) and Russell suggests exploring the use and manipulation of images from the web. He has sent me the link to a website HERE that offers free stock photos that are licensed under the Creative Commons Zero (CC0) . As I still have the exercise associated with this project to complete it will be a good chance to experiment and also look for imagery I can include in my fictional narrative.

I need to contemplate how what I am doing investigates “the current digital climate… into Jean Baudrillard’s text ‘Simulacra and Simulation’ look into different orders of Simulacra”

So I have a lot of reading / research and experimenting to do but am rather excited too .

In addition I will write a post on my DI&C blog each time I alter and update an element of the Telling Stories blog.

Assignment 4: Digital identities 1

‘We collect and curate our memories more thoroughly than ever before , in every case grasping for a certain kind of immortality’ (Parkin,S .2015) .

The urge to immortalise ourselves is ageless and throughout history whether by painting , writing or photography we make what we call memories in an attempt to be remembered by future generations.

However when viewed out of context family photographs cease to function as a truthful mnemonic device;if they ever did.

Assignment 4 is classed as ‘work in progress’ and following tutor feedback will form the basis of assignment 5. It is not intended to be a fully contextualised submission.


– Create a fictional family for my digital self using appropriated photographs
– Start to build up my fictional digital persona using appropriated images
– Post the information and any images on a dedicated blog (link below)
– Additionally use some of my own images taken specifically for the assignment.

Our memories , rather than being physical artefacts , now more than often exit in the ether and are kept on servers or social media sites. Hence I have set up a separate blog for my Telling Stories project as part of the assignment preparation. There is not a lot on there at the moment but I will be adding more categories for my fictional family ; Ben Fountain et al. This needs to be kept separate from my college coursework blog as I do not want my new identity to have any links to the ‘real’ me.


I have been trying without much success to also set up a second Instagram account specifically for the project that will be linked to the blog . I shall endeavour to do this over the weekend if I can work out what I am doing wrong.

Some recent images I have taken for my Telling Stories project

(see Telling Stories blog post HERE for context) .

My plan is to take some more as I continue working on assignment 5.

As well as the blog I would like to produce a (? large) book in addition to individual prints.

Brief self-evaluation

I have struggled to get to this point in the course for various reasons. Frequent hospital trips with my husband , work commitments , my elderly mother has recently banged both legs needing twice weekly trips to see a nurse , and finally I developed a rather painful corneal ulcer ! This has meant further hospital trips and problems with the eyesight in my left eye (I have suffered with ulcers since I was 16 hence the eye is scarred).

I need to get my ‘work in progress’ to my tutor this week and have been attempting to fit in short periods of study but still need to complete a couple of projects and exercises to finalise section 4. I shall do these over the next few weeks.

Because this assignment is very much a work in progress it is not complete , but I am happy with what I have managed to do so far.

I need to add the images taken so far to my Telling Stories blog that I am going to use for the assignment. I will need to keep this updated continuously.

Every image for this assignment has been digitally amended in some form or other, even the appropriated photographs that have not been manipulated in photoshop have been scanned and ‘corrected’ by digital means. I have become increasingly confident using photoshop to merge images , but still have such a lot to learn as regards what I can do using the software.

The ambiguity of appropriated analogue photographs has such possibilities for future projects using digital technology. I am enjoying giving the anonymous individuals in the images I have bought new identities and histories. I have bought these mainly from ebay but there is a fantastic junk shop in Penzance that I visit when I am in Cornwall that has a small section of photographs. I found three photographs of two brothers , possibly twins, dated on the back a year apart. They would be around the same age as me and on the third photograph was a girl , perhaps she was their sister ? I felt sad that these family photographs were now abandoned so I bought them. What has happened in their lives that no one kept and cherished them ? So many unanswered questions.

I also bought a rather beautiful mourning locket from an antique shop in Marazion , my husband spotted it through the window. It contains two photographs with one each side of an elderly man and a rather dapper handsome man on the other , I wonder if it is the same man or father and son?

I have taken a photograph of each side using my iPhone and manipulated them with apps on my phone . These photographs will not be included in the assignment but I plan to include images of the locket and have a couple of ideas I want to try out. I haven’t decided yet what the relationship between the two men will be in my narrative.

The link HERE is to the research I did during my previous OCA course which is really useful and relevant to the use of appropriated imagery –I would like to do some further research on Boltanski if time permits.

I want to look at the work of Nicky Bird HERE

Research / Resources so far

Batchen , G. “Dreams of an ordinary life. Cartes-de-visite and the bourgeois imagination” ( 2009) In Long , J. Noble , A . Welch , E. (eds) Photography Theoretical Snapshots: London : Routledge.
p.p 80-97

Boyd ,W. (2011) Nat Tate. London:Bloomsbury

Boyd ,W. (2016) Sweet Caress. London:Bloomsbury

Cumming , L. 4/7/10. Camille Silvy :Photographer of Modern Life ; Fiona Banner Duveens Commission 2010. the
Accessed online 30/8/17

House , C. (2015) William Boyd on the photos that inspired Sweet Caress (online)
Accessed 2/11/17

Johnson , R.F. (2009) Being human .London :Thames & Hudson

Page , B. (2015) William Boyd Interview (online)
Accessed 11/11/17

Parkin, Simon. 2015. Back-up brains : The era of digital immortality
online accessed 24/8/17

Riggs , R. (2013) Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children . Philadelphia US: Quirk Books

Riggs, R. (2014) Hollow City . Philadelphia US: Quirk Books

Riggs , R. (2015) Library of Souls . Philadelphia US: Quirk Books

Riggs, R. (2012) Talking Pictures . NewYork:ItBooks

Roberts , E. (2017) “On Finding the Right Words” Black + White Photography (Issue 206) p.p1

Smithson , A. Madge Cameron:Fixed. Lenscratch online 7/3/2015

Accessed 8/3/17
Accessed 17/4/17
Accessed 4/6/17
Accessed 15/6/17
Accessed 24/8/17
Accessed 23/9/17
Accessed 1/10/17
Accessed 1/10/17

Telling stories #3

I wondered how people could give away pictures of their families , even those of distant relatives they may not know or remember. Why would they give these photographs up—why, for that matter, would complete strangers want them?
Ransom Riggs Talking Pictures

Back in July when I first started my ‘Telling Stories’ project I was unsure how it would evolve but noted that I was not intending to write a novel. However I need to build up a storyline and create a history for my fictitious family ; hence whilst trying to make connections between the un-related strangers in my bought photographs I am plotting a rather complicated family tree ! I have also decided to incorporate what was initially a personal project ‘Images and Text’ into my research / work in progress for this assignment.

The two PDF’s below show my initial mind-map and the relationships I am slowly beginning to build up between the characters that have so far evolved.

Mindmap                                         Timeline #1

The story at the moment begins with Ben Fountain three sisters; Clara , Violet, Rosebud and their cousin Pearl.

Ben survives WW1 and marries Violet one of the three sisters.

Ben survives WW1 but loses his two best friends.

Ben and Violet’s wedding day

Ben marries Violet in the early 1920’s –their child will become my fictitious parent –I haven’t decided yet who from my collection this will be. I need to build up my own alter-ego persona as well as age and introduce newer family members and their stories. Although quite a lot of information can be obtained simply by looking at a photograph my appropriated images will require accompanying text to convey the (false) context. This is something I will come back to as it’s an important aspect of this project.

I have been immensely influenced by the three Ransom Riggs Peculiar Children novels :

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children
Hollow City
Library of Souls

In addition to Talking Pictures also by Riggs.

Riggs is a collector of vintage snapshots , as the subjects in the images were unknown to him he made stories up.The imagery in the books was from his own collection as well as chosen from the archives of collectors.

When writing the first book Riggs comments “the photographs came first” (Riggs, R. 2013. p.p 358) . From over 100,00 images he looked through just 50 were finally included in the book. Those incorporated were ones specifically chosen but occasionally Riggs found ones that ‘demanded to be included in the story and I’d find a way to work it it; other times I’d look for a certain type of photo to fit a story idea I had” (Riggs, R. 2013. p.p 358).

Unlike his first book , for which the book was written to fit around the photographs , the images in Hollow City were chosen after by Riggs to ‘fit a scene‘ (Riggs, R. 2014. p.p 405) he had already decided on.

Despite researching the origins of his orphaned images Riggs found ‘little substantive information‘ about them and prefers not knowing the provenance as this gives him the ‘freedom to make up stories about my photo’s” (Riggs , R. 2014. p.p 406).

I have been looking for specific photographs that resemble each of my characters as they grow older. I have additionally bought others that I simply like but whether they can/will somehow be incorporated into the assignment I’m not sure yet , it’s an ongoing process.

A favourite author of mine is William Boyd who also collects vintage photographs. His novel Sweet Caress tells the life story of fictional photographer Amory Clay and from his collection of approximately 2000 found/bought photographs 75 are included in the book .’These uncredited images of unknown subjects–collected by Boyd originally without intent–are now freighted with narrative significance’ ( House, C. 2015 telegraph online) . Boyd looked for specific images to fit in with the story but periodically deviated the storyline when using certain photographs. Only photographs of unknown provenance were included the text ‘giving it a realism that is entirely invented’ ( Page , B. 2015. bookseller online).

Boyd’s hoax biography of American artist Nat Tate was published on April Fools Day 1998. The photographs included were from an album bought by Boyd at an antiques fair, the fictional artist was given the name of Boyd’s family chauffeur.

To be continued ……….

References / Bibliography

Boyd ,W. (2011) Nat Tate. London:Bloomsbury

Boyd ,W. (2016) Sweet Caress. London:Bloomsbury

House , C. (2015) William Boyd on the photos that inspired Sweet Caress (online)
Accessed 2/11/17
Page , B. (2015) William Boyd Interview (online)
Accessed 11/11/17
Riggs , R. (2013) Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children . Philadelphia US: Quirk Books
Riggs, R. (2014) Hollow City . Philadelphia US: Quirk Books
Riggs , R. (2015) Library of Souls . Philadelphia US: Quirk Books
Riggs, R. (2012) Talking Pictures . NewYork:ItBooks

Similar but different :memes , cloning and replication

Richard Dawkins The Selfish Gene

Richard Dawkins thoughts on cultural transmission are interesting , he discusses how snippets of information (memes) are passed from one individual to another by imitation or non-genetic means. Meme’s are cultural , not genetic , and each snippet of information is a meme and, however slightly , each eventually becomes a modified version of the previous meme, which in turn has implications for how reliably a photograph can be believed to tell the absolute truth . It is inevitable that the context of an image , however subtly , will alter over time. Memes–re-create and represent; they are not the same as the original but are a trace or palimpsest.

Limor Shifman The Cultural Logic of Photo-Based Meme Games

The mutation of digital internet memes is practically instantaneous and Shifman’s interpretation of memes differs from Dawkins, who perceives a meme as ‘a single cultural unit that has propagated well’ . Digital technology ‘and the unique features of the internet turned the division of memes into a ubiquitous , highly visible and global routine’ (p.p 341).

Shifman’s article specifically identifies three categories (genres) of photo-based memes.

– Reaction Photoshops : edited and or juxtaposed images of politicians , celebrities or ordinary people.
– Stock character macros : images superimposed with text symbolising stereotypical conduct.
– Photo fads: staged photos

Shifman contends that despite the differences between the three categories identified they share some comprehensive concepts .

– Hypersignification ‘the code itself becomes the focus of attention’.
– Prospective photography –‘photos are increasingly perceived as the raw material for their future incarnations’
– Operative signs ‘textual categories that are designed as invitations for creative action’ (p.p 341)

Memes have a social significance and hypersignification can be interpreted as the insubordinate meaning communicated.

Reaction Photoshops.
In these type of photo-based memes hypersignification conveys and pinpoints the fabricated nature of such imagery. Following the 9/11 attack an image was circulated on the internet of a tourist purportedly unaware of a plane heading towards himself as he stood at the top the World Trade Center posing for a photograph. The veracity of the initially believable image was debated due to the suspect and imprecise manipulation. The image generated further reactions in which the tourist , later identified as Hungarian Peter Guzli , ‘was placed in various iconic sceneries’ (p.p 344) . Guzli had privately sent his friends a manipulated image of a photograph originally taken in 1997 as a joke ; his friends perpetuated the hoax. Interestingly ‘people did not alter the photo as long as they thought it was a genuine image of a person in his last moments : they started creating their own versions only once suspicion about its authenticity emerged’ (p.p 345). This type of photo meme is frequently used to make a reproving political statement. Hence hypersignification in Reaction Photoshops draws attention to their fake nature and of individuals’ capacity to further re-manipulate.

Stock character macros.
Commercial stock images often feature utopian representations of daily life ‘at the core of this global industry is an effort to create standardised images of basic human emotions and activities , which can then be used in a variety of contexts and outlets’ (p.p 439) . Stock character macros show particular unfavourable traits that are associated with specified social groups. Hypersignification outlines the unconcealed interpretation of stereotypical behaviour.

Photo fads.
These images feature subjects in clearly defined poses in varied settings that are shared on the internet. They ‘reveal the scaffolding of meme-based community building’ (p.p 352) . Despite being clearly defined the duplicated bizarre poses seem to be ‘ a signifier without a signified’ (p.p 351). Shifman suggests the homogenous stances signifies ‘individuals’ belonging not to a small and familiar social unit, but to a larger, more fluid digital community’ (p.p 351). Hence whilst hypersignification might firstly be considered to be connected with the pose it chronicles how memes function ‘as social connectors’ (p.p 352).

Memes as prospective photography

The belief that photos are linked to the past is at the core of numerous hypotheses of photography. Increasingly this connection is more tenuous due to digital technology and social media where ‘photography …. is a live , conversational , medium, used not only for memorialising the past but mostly for connectivity in the present’ (p.p 353) .

All three meme genres are mainly ‘present orientated’ (p.p 353) but because memes generate additional versions they are also ‘oriented towards the future’ (p.p 353)

Liam Devlin Occupy the Image

On the 18th November 2011 Californian university students staging a sit down demonstration were pepper sprayed by John Pike , a police officer; however the significance that images were taken is not the paramount element of the incident.

Reportage photography traditionally relied on its supposed truthfulness in addition to the reputability of the publication and photographer. Such incidents require the presence of a photojournalist ; however news agencies have been criticised because their ‘interests it has been argued have been to perpetuate hegemony’ (p.p 6) . The incident led to a plethora of meme based responses which ‘suggests a new paradigm through which to consider the use and re-use of images’ (p.p 6) .See Here

References / Bibliography
Dawkins, R. (1989) The Selfish Gene . New York: Oxford University Press.
Shifman , L . “The Cultural Logic of Photo-Based Meme Games” in Journal of Visual Culture 
Accessed 15/10/17
Accessed 15/10/17
Accessed 18/10/17
Accessed 1/11/17


Telling stories #2

Artist Rachel Phillips has an alter-ego ; Madge Cameron .
The pseudonym enables her to present ideas and concepts via a fresh platform.

Madge Cameron. b 1935 San Francisco.
Cameron was brought up by her grandmother after her father vanished during the Depression.
The only possession he left behind was a basic camera.
The library near her home became a haven where she gained a P.h.D following which she became an archivist.

Establishing her role was initially quite separate from her photography but by chance when digitising the archives ‘Madge has discovered a unique process that reconsiders time and found photographs’ (Smithson, A. 2015).

The images are an amalgam of archival material and digital intervention , quite unique.

I love the idea of creating an alter-ego , something I’ve been contemplating specifically for the assignment . Unlike real life your online identity is adaptable ; you can portray yourself as anything you want to be. I plan to use appropriated imagery but want to include new photographs taken specifically for the project too. My new persona will need a history that I can build the work up from in addition to a fabricated family archive. What I’m not too sure about is how the work will be presented , I have toyed with possibly creating a new blog specifically for my fictitious self and newly formed memoir but I do plan to produce prints , a book too. Family history is passed on orally , visually or through written records but is open to interpretation and easily fictionalised , even more so with digital techniques. I need to start planning exactly how I can expand on my ideas and present them in a coherent manner that addresses the theme of the assignment : Digital Identities.

My working title (at present) is Telling Stories . In the September issue of B+W magazine editor Elizabeth Roberts discusses the importance of choosing a title for your work in progress commenting “if we look for the title while the work is ongoing we start to understand what the project is really about” .

I have been processing some of my vintage photographs purchased via ebay and junk shops (images below) but realise I need to be very selective as to what I decide to include and what to discard. I only buy photographs that I fall in love with hence I am rather attached to all of them , almost as much as my own personal family archive . I gravitate towards orphaned images that trigger memories of my own past or resemble family members , hence my project / biography will include elements of truth yet remain ambiguous . I keep all my purchased images in a separate box from my family collection but what will someone make of my miscellaneous collection in the future , will they too make connections that in reality don’t exist?

Ronald and Ada’s daughter was called Pearl , like her mother she had a mop of unruly curly hair.

Could this be my grandmother ?

I moved the photo as I was scanning it

Ben Fountain 1916







July 1914










First attempt at a mandala














To be continued ….

References / Bibliography

Roberts , E. (2017) “On Finding the Right Words” Black + White Photography (Issue 206) p.p1

Smithson , A. Madge Cameron:Fixed. Lenscratch online 7/3/2015
Accessed 1/10/17
Accessed 12/10/17