FMP Concept

At the start of the Final Major Project module (FMP), there are two options for viable research.

The first is alcoholism, the second is anorexia.

Both provide an opportunity to explore alternative relationships with food.

The initial idea was to produce a body of work based on research into alcoholism, this was the plan for quite some time.

The following are contemporaneous notes made as I externalise my decision to instead focus research on anorexia.

Arguably, anorexia, as a theme, is more relatable to food photography than alcoholism.

Food is a necessity, like water and air, we need it to survive.

But what happens when we start to regard food as a prison, trapping us in a body which we don’t want to be in, what happens when the balance of mind is affected?

What happens when our relationship with food turns sour, when food stops being a friend?

Jo is a recovered anorexic. She is a keen journalist and her diary keeping covers the period of her illness.

Diary entries record calorific intake and items of food consumed.

Freely admitting that her life has spiralled out of control, she lacks confidence and has low self-esteem.

What she eats is the one aspect of her life that she feels she can control and not eating provides her with a sense of achievement. It also helps her work towards her goal – being thin will lead to her being popular.

Pro-Ana websites have a significant influence upon her illness, and she finds that other users, mostly girls but not exclusively, refer to this as thinspiration and to themselves as ‘rexies’ and regard Ana, the vernacular term used by anorexics for the disease, as an (invisible) friend.

Consequently, the diaries also record phrases and images which were found by Jo to be inspirational.

Jo finds the culture associated with anorexia draws her deeper into a world in which she can be someone, a different person – the person she wants to be.

But this escapism has a price – denial of the reality which is the harm she is doing to her body as she starves herself.

Mental illness is heavily stigmatised and stereotyped – much work needs still to be done in educating people and reducing negative perceptions.

This holds true for eating disorders.

Anorexia is not a physical illness. It is a mental illness with visible physical symptoms.

Mental illness is not a taboo, it is not something to be hidden away – the most effective help we can all offer is to bring mental illness, irrespective of type, out into the open.

Such diseases are not something shameful, it is the way society regards mental illness that is shameful.

I believe that as photographers we have a duty to highlight social issues, to raise awareness.

‘Above all, life for a photographer cannot be a matter of indifference’ (Robert Frank)

I find food as a subject for photography enormously aesthetically appealing. The various ways in which we relate to our food fascinates me. Mental illness, how we regard those with mental illness and how we go about their treatment is a subject close to my heart. It is an area of considerable discrimination, ignorance and inadequate resourcing, all of which I have experienced first-hand as partner of, and carer for, someone with mental illness – including an eating disorder.

I want to know more about this mental illness and to understand more.

Jo-Ana is a way for me to extend my knowledge and understanding, and that of others, through photography.

Based on such close personal experience and a desire to further both my understanding and that of others, the project is being undertaken for both emotional and intellectual reasons (Scott, 2014).

I believe that this will be a cathartic process in addition to the outcome being a body of work which may help raise awareness.

What is the trigger? Are there multiple triggers?

Is there peer pressure before the influence of pro-Ana websites?

What – journal entries of a girl suffering from anorexia

How – still-life images

Why – raise awareness of the link between food and mental health, help remove the stigma associated with mental health issues



Scott, G. (2014), Professional Photography: The New Global Landscape Explained. Oxon: Focal Press

Irving Penn


Penn, 1985. Still Life with Triangle and Red Eraser

Irving Penn’s Still Life with Triangle and Red Eraser (1985) is a collection of largely incongruous, disparate objects.

The subjects, placed on a plain off-white surface, appear to be illuminated by a single light source.

Lighting is harsh with sculpted shadows and an immediate transition from light to dark – a trait seen in many of Penn’s still life images.

Why did Penn produce this image in this way?

The innovative, experimental nature of modernist art is clearly visible in this abstract image.

Characteristic throughout his career, with this still life, Penn is producing new imagery, in a new way for a new age.

As much as I like this image, it jars with me – there is a strong sense of dissonance in this image, I feel that this is largely because of the claustrophobic arrangement of subjects which, touching or overlapping, are left without space in which to breathe.

I don’t think this image, in terms of style, could be further removed from my photographic practice.

The suggestion that I examine the early work of Penn has been made.

Why? Phrased differently, how is this relevant to my photography?

I think the key point is to produce work which takes me away from that with which I feel comfortable, to take my photography in a new direction.

So, on the way to producing my final major project, there will also be some experimental photography.

My intention is to analyse Penn’s images in order to understand the techniques he employed so successfully. I will then endeavour to recreate some of his images before finally producing my own version.

To learn from such a master is first to analyse, then to imitate, then to apply in one’s own creations.

Sublime … Not So Ridiculous?

‘Theory developed by Edmund Burke in the mid eighteenth century, where he defined sublime art as art that refers to a greatness beyond all possibility of calculation, measurement or imitation’ (, 2018). (2018) informs us:

‘The theory of sublime art was put forward by Edmund Burke in A Philosophical Enquiry into the Origin of our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful published in 1757. He defined the sublime as an artistic effect productive of the strongest emotion the mind is capable of feeling. He wrote ‘whatever is in any sort terrible or is conversant about terrible objects or operates in a manner analogous to terror, is a source of the sublime’.

This would appear to be in direct contrast with the definition provided by the Oxford Dictionary for the word sublime:

‘Of a feature of nature or art: that fills the mind with a sense of overwhelming grandeur or irresistible power; that inspires awe, great reverence, or other high emotion, by reason of its beauty, vastness, or grandeur’ (Oxford English Dictionary, 2018).

On one hand, sublime is seemingly used to refer to strong emotions associated with terror, on the other hand it is used to refer to awe inspiring greatness relating to some physical attribute including, but not limited to, beauty.

The two seem very much at odds, both statements cannot be correct.

How do we reconcile this dissonance?

Before attempting an answer, I need to determine how this is relevant to my practice?

Previously I have described the observation and craftsmanship shown by Vermeer in producing the light fall-off in The Milkmaid as sublime. It has been suggested that my use of the term is incorrect.

I didn’t agree with this notion on the occasions that the suggestion was made, and I don’t agree with it now.

For me, the important thing is to recognise and accept that one definition of the sublime does not preclude any or all other definitions.

Use of the term, that is to say which definition of the term is used, is very much context dependent. And this brings me very nicely to my final point.

I think this discourse is also relevant to my practice from the point of increasing my visual literacy and associated vocabulary.

Vermeer painted in such a way that light has a presence, a vibrancy all of its own – it is awe-inspiring and, for me at least, retains the right to be described as sublime.



“sublime, adj. and n.”. OED Online. Oxford University Press, January 2018 [Online]. Available at: (Accessed 25 January 2018) ca. 2018. Art Terms entry: ‘sublime’ [Online]. Available at: (Accessed: Thursday 25 January 2018)

On Reflection: Weeks 13 – 15, Module Four

A consolidated account of weeks 13 to 15, module four.


Week 13 – w/c Monday 08 January 2018

Building a website, a seemingly simple task!

Started in September, it has been a saga of trial and tribulation.

I had a very clear outcome in mind, a very definite look that I wanted for the website which would represent my photographic practice.

Having tried many options for ready-made, template-based websites, the experience has taught me that a website designed and up and running in minutes is nothing more than a marketing ploy.

WordPress has served me very well during the life of this CRJ – I am impressed. Nevertheless, I was unable to obtain the freedom I wanted to customise my website even with a self-hosted .org.

And to be honest, I quickly found myself out of my depth.

Be clear on this, WordPress is a very powerful application for the design of websites. Any constraints on my ability to customise were a direct result of a lack of knowledge on my part.

New Year’s Day 2018, I made the decision to tackle the issue which had plagued me for some months. Locked away for six days, I taught myself everything I needed to know to be able to use WordPress child themes.

The results of my efforts can be seen here:

The website isn’t complete (will it ever be?) and is subject to further development.

It has received positive comments from peers and from Lynn Chambers (MAYN Creative).

I’m proud of this achievement and the website closely matches my original intention.

I think it gives me a very strong platform from which to build my photographic practice.

Very positive feedback was received from Amy Simmons, MC Saatchi, regarding the treatment I prepared (see Receiving Treatment). In summary, she felt that all the information contained in the treatment was correct with a nice level of detail.

Moving forward, Simmonds suggested that images which provide inspiration for one aspect of an image are placed together in one separate section, with a separate section being included in the treatment for each aspect, e.g. images relating to lighting, texture or background.

Additionally, images which are included for positional illustration should be labelled as such. Positional illustrations being favoured over mock-ups, the latter possibly placing a constraint on creativity by preventing the opportunity to experiment with different arrangements during the shoot.

Again, another achievement to feel positive about.

Week 14 – w/c Monday 15 January 2018


The effort has paid off.

I am very pleased with the results for the assignments submitted 15 December 2017.

These results build very nicely on earlier marks.

Looking back 12 months and there is a marked difference in the feedback provided by the academic staff – last year I was a mess, floundering.

I am looking forward to working on my final major project.

With regard to my project, the Christmas break was an opportunity to evaluate both concept and plans.

The result was a major rethink – the theme for my final major has changed quite significantly.

Initially, it was the intention to explore alcohol dependency. I think there is a lot of mileage in this theme as a project.

To be honest, the concept met with mixed reactions, but most were negative.

My revised plan is to explore what happens when our relationship with food becomes unhealthy – in this looking at anorexia.

Week 15 – w/c Monday 22 January 2018

Rejection is part of being a photographer – fact.

Nevertheless, it can be a very bitter pill to swallow.

There have been a lot of positives in recent weeks – positives that I can continue to build on. I don’t know if that made a rejection this week harder to accept.

Is it a major rejection? No, not by any means – but it still got under my skin.

Inspiration can come in many forms, and from many different areas.

‘Let me tell you something you already know. The world ain’t all sunshine and rainbows. It’s a very mean and nasty place and I don’t care how tough you are, it will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it. You, me or nobody is going to hit as hard as life. But it ain’t about how hard you hit, it’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward. How much you can take and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done.’

– Rocky Balboa

I don’t need to beat anyone else. I just need to conquer myself. Then, and only then, I will have beaten everything.

A very productive week, focussing on project planning. There is clearly a long way to go, the project is deliverable at the end of August, but I feel that the concept is quite developed.

Forward into module 5 …