Reflecting on Weeks 26 to 28, FMP

Presented as an online exhibition, Jo-Ana has a permanence that is largely unavailable to physical exhibitions which are afforded space in a gallery only for a limited period of time.

It has, I feel, been a very successful project. All the objectives I set at the beginning of the project have been achieved, people have viewed the images, all responses have been positive with some indicating that the exhibition has changed their view with regard to eating disorders.

Jo-Ana is a springboard to future projects, it’s success is something positive that can be built upon.

The intention is to produce a photobook, work is under way. Beyond that, it is my intention to offer Jo-Ana to schools and colleges where it might reach and inform a susceptible demographic. I can see longevity for the project.

In terms of building on Jo-Ana’s success, I am increasingly drawn to narrating the stories of those who are socially disadvantaged. Alcoholism appeals to me as a subject for exploration. I am aware that there are many more personal accounts of eating disorder sufferers which need to be told. The UK eating disorder charity Beat Eating Disorders provides a liaison service which puts journalists, writers and photographers in touch with sufferers who wish to provide their account.

Researching this project has been harrowing, but we need to be a lot more aware of, and understand a lot more about, eating disorders. Early intervention for eating disorders is key to successful long-term treatment. Such early intervention can only come about if those with an eating disorder can talk without being stigmatised, and if others can recognise the signs and symptoms of eating disorders in their family, friends and colleagues.

In his book Sweet Earth, photographer Joel Sternfeld supplements images with text. Geoff Dyer (2010) asks whether the book’s value is reduced because the images have to be seen ‘in tandem with accompanying text’. He addresses this question by writing ‘it was we, the viewer, who was being interrogated, forced to answer the most basic question; Do you have any idea what you are looking at?’

Dyer is raising an important question – how aware of the issues which surround us are we?

I think we are, to some extent at least, desensitised to issues. An idea with which Sontag (2004) seems to concur, informing us:

‘Shock can wear off. Even if it doesn’t, one can not look. People have means to defend themselves against what is upsetting – in this instance, unpleasant information for those wishing to continue to smoke. This seems normal, that is, adaptive. As one can become habituated to horror in real life, one can become habituated to the horror of certain images.’

Sontag might be discussing an extreme example. But if we can shut out ‘horror’, how much easier is it to deny what we perceive as ‘lesser’ issues?

And so we can rephrase Dyer’s question, and make it relevant to Jo-Ana, by asking, how aware of the plight of others are we?

This is also a question with relevance to many other issues having potential as photographic projects as I seek to further develop my practice.

See also: Francesca Woodman


Dyer, G. (2010). Working the Room. Edinburgh: Canongate Books Limited

Sontag, S. (2004). Regarding the Pain of Others. London: Penguin Books Limited

Jo-Ana: Peer Review


Jo-Ana visually describes diary entries made by Jo, a 30 something recovered anorexic, throughout her period of illness.

Key events before, during and after her illness are recorded. Presented as a series of still life compositions, they offer the viewer insight into Jo’s struggle with anorexia.

Items of food consumed by Jo are portrayed, the nutritional value corresponding to her transition from health, to illness, and on to recovery.

Her thoughts are displayed alongside text she found inspirational. Everyday objects offer a glimpse of her interests and her personality.

Examining an alternative relationship with food and played out on a very small stage, it is the story of what happens when food stops being a friend.

There were two primary objectives for Jo-Ana.

The first being to ensure that the voice of the participant, Jo, was clearly heard, and the second being to present the images in a clean website with supplemental text and images which enriched the viewing experience rather than detracting from it.

Have I been successful in achieving these objectives?

Sutherst (2018) reviews as follows:

‘The words from the diary are the reminders that this is a real person’s account of their road to recovery. The inclusion and placement of personal items in each image remind us that there is more to an anorexia sufferer than them just not eating. They have lives and interests like everyone else and they are more than just the disease – it does not define who they are, it is something they are suffering with.’

Clear confirmation, then, that the first aim for Jo-Ana has been achieved.

‘Each image is expertly showcased on the responsive website. The style is understated and does not intrude on the viewer’s experience of work. Viewing the sequence of images of food and pages from Jo’s diary, the visual narrative is one of despair through to hope (with a multitude of emotion in between). The viewer starts to appreciate the mental distortions that anorexics have in their relationship to food. The unhealthy thoughts recorded in the diary are sympathetically and cleverly reflected in the accompanying food images.’

Clear confirmation, then, that the second aim for Jo-Ana has also been achieved.

Such confirmation can only be viewed very positively as I not only look to extend the range of surfaces across which Jo-Ana is presented, but also assess the feasibility of future project themes.

Jo Sutherst’s full review can be read here.



Sutherst, J. (2018). ‘Final Major Project: Review of Philip Morris’s ‘Jo-Ana’ Project’. josutherstphotographycom [online]. Available at: (accessed Thursday 23 August 2018)

Ambitious Art

‘The world of art has always had the ambition of having the work completed by the viewer, and part of what comes from that is that no one person brings the same thing to the same work.’

– Philip-Lorca Dicorcia (in Read, 2014)


Read, Shirley (2014). Exhibiting Photography: A Practical Guide to Displaying Your Work. Oxon: Focal Press

Jo-Ana – Analysis

Jo-Ana is a body of work which examines the mental illness anorexia nervosa and by doing so continues the work of previous projects which have explored alternative relationships with food.

The diaries of an anorexic are visually described through a series of still life images. Items of food consumed by the sufferer together with extracts of text provide the viewer with an insight into the participant’s prolonged struggle with the disease. Personal effects provide further context, allowing the viewer to see something of the participant’s personality rather than focusing on the illness itself.

These commonplace items break down the fourth wall, allowing us a glimpse of the participant’s life beyond the composition: informing the viewer that yes, this is an individual with an illness, but first and foremost this is an individual with a life to live.

Whilst images form an intimate biography, they do so without the participant herself actually being portrayed – inviting the viewer to wonder about her life, her story outside the frame.

Together, paired images of food and text tell a story of a moment in time. The participant’s possessions providing continuity between the two as they bleed out of one image into another. The complete series provides a linear narrative straddling several years.

In each image is contained a detail which is the punctum (Barthes, 1980) – a detail which ‘pricks or bruises’ the viewer’s consciousness, evoking a sense of emotion.

Prima facie Jo-Ana is an examination of an alternative relationship with food. On a deeper level, however, the project is an attempt to reconcile a disease which is more than capable of taking the sufferer to the point of destruction. The theme was chosen largely for personal reasons, having myself been the partner of and carer for someone suffering from anorexia. Anorexia is a disease which destroys so much and leaves many questions unanswered. On a personal level the aim was to answer some of these questions, to gain a greater understanding of the disease and its causes, what makes some individuals susceptible, feelings experienced by anorexics, the tipping point motivating sufferers to seek help, and how recovery feels.

More widely, the following objectives were established for the project.

Firstly, to raise awareness of the disease, and its causes, within the wider community.

Greater public awareness is necessary so that family, friends and colleagues can more easily recognise the characteristics of the illness. Clinical studies have proven that successful treatment and long-term recovery are dependent on early recognition and intervention.

Eating disorders are subject to significant prejudice, with many believing them to be a lifestyle choice. Another important aim for the project was, therefore, to help dispel some of the ignorance that exists in relation to anorexia.

Thirdly, it was felt to be important to help bring the illness out into the open, making it a point for discussion. Most importantly, it needs to become more acceptable for those who suffer from anorexia to be able to seek help.

Finally, in the early stages of Jo-Ana, the participant stated that on many occasions her treatment had become about the illness rather than the person, and that this is a view commonly held by anorexics.

Consequently, ensuring that the participant’s voice was allowed to be heard through the photography became a primary concern, avoiding Jo being seen as ‘other’ (Sontag, 1977).

To convey something of Jo’s personality it was felt essential to incorporate some of her possessions into the images of food and text. This has resulted in a body of work which is inclusive for the participant and not exclusive.

It is absolutely essential that Jo’s personality is represented in the images. This is Jo’s project as much as it is mine, if not more so. Without Jo’s story, and her willingness to share it, there would be no project.

Strip away the context, strip away the personal effects and the images become devoid of the person, rendering it anonymous. Jo-Ana without Jo becomes Ana, and we have made one person’s account say nothing about that person, excluding them to focus solely on an illness which has already taken so much.

So, what exactly is Jo-Ana?

Barthes and Heath (1977) inform us of a signifier, something which is identifiable in an image and which conveys a denotational message, and the signified – the connotational (implied) meanings, ideas or ideologies which the image attempts to communicate to the viewer.

Interviewed in 2012, Francis Hodgson discusses not only the way in which we analyse images, but also the quality of the way in which we do so (Quality Matters, 2013). Hodgson suggests that we frequently perceive and discuss images as being “of something” without attempting to consider that images are also “about something”, an idea which links strongly with Barthes concept of the signifier and the signified.

In these terms, then, Jo-Ana is not a series of images about an illness called anorexia. It is, however, a series of images about a girl called Jo who, for a long period of time, suffers from anorexia before going on to recover.

Authentication is the term used to denote that an image is trace evidence of a subject having existed and this equates to the ‘certificate of presence’ referred to by Barthes (Barthes, 1980).

Scruton helps clarify the situation when he writes: ‘in other words, if a photograph is a photograph of a subject, it follows that the subject exists’ (Scruton, 1981, p. 579).

Further clarification is provided by Tagg who writes: ‘what the photograph asserts is the overwhelming truth that ‘the thing has been there’: this was a reality which once existed, though it is ‘a reality one can no longer touch’.’ (Tagg, 1988).

Visual anthropology is the graphical and written representation of a group’s culture. It is concerned with the study of the production and consumption of visual forms of communication.

Anthropology, however, is concerned with the study of humans, human behaviour and societies both past and present, whilst social anthropology is the study of societies norms and values.

Jo-Ana, then is not an example of visual anthropology, moreover it is anthropology presented visually – recording what were once the private thoughts of an individual, making them available as a source of information for future reference.

Have I successfully met my objectives for Jo-Ana? Have I produced a body of work which will help future generations to understand what anorexia is, and what it is like to live with?

What about the art value of the body of work? Have I produced a body of work which has value to collectors of art and photography, making it something they would wish to invest in? This is certainly an aspect of I want to disappear which Mafalda Rakos recognises.

These are questions which only the viewer can answer. I would suggest, however, that yes, based on feedback, the objectives for the project have been met. And future generations will certainly be able to see what anorexia is and feels like from at least one perspective.

Whether Jo-Ana has a value as art remains to be seen.



Barthes, Roland (1980). Camera Lucida: Reflections on Photography. New York: Hill & Wang

Barthes, R. and Heath, S. (1977) Rhetoric of the Image in Image Music Text. London: Fontana

Francis Hodgson: Quality Matters (2013) YouTube Video, added by Huis Marseille, Museum for Photography [Online]. Available at: (accessed 19 February 2017)

Scruton, R. (1981) ‘Photography and Representation’, Critical Inquiry, vol. 7, No. 3 (Spring, 1981), pp. 577-603 [Online]. Available at: (Accessed 29 January 2017)

Tagg, J. (1988) ‘The Burden of Representation’ PhotoPedagogy [Online]. Available at: http// (Accessed 30 January 2017)

Differentiating Visual Anthropology & Anthropology

Visual anthropology is the graphical and written representation of a group’s culture. It is concerned with the study of the production and consumption of visual forms of communication.

Anthropology, however, is concerned with the study of humans, human behaviour and societies both past and present, whilst social anthropology is the study of societies norms and values.

Jo-Ana, then, is not an example of visual anthropology, moreover it is anthropology presented visually – recording what were once the private thoughts of an individual, making them available as a source of information for future reference.

Exhibition Review

Review received as follows, 07 August 2018:

Jo-Ana – MA Final Project

Philip Morris

I have followed the progress of this project from an interesting viewpoint. Firstly I work as a Psychotherapeutic Counsellor so I view from a professional aspect, I also work as a Mental Health Student Mentor at a university so I view this from my ongoing professional relationships with students and thirdly from a personal perspective.  At sixteen I developed anorexia this was in the 1960`s, the Twiggy era, so it was completely unrecognised as an illness.

Using photography to portray the anorexic journey is both innovative and cathartic as the visual image speaks beyond words and allows the viewer the opportunity to put their own thoughts and words into the story. Viewing the series of sequential images and the visual story shows the mental distortions in relation to food and gives access to the unhealthy thinking that has become a primary driver to food choice and quantity. Including the personal possessions in the images both personalises and contextualises the ongoing life script.

In therapy there are times that words are futile and do not express how a person feels or it can be that the feelings have not reached the conscious level of knowingness.  Using creative methods such as images through drawing or image choice can help a client to access the sub-conscious and in so doing access the sub-text or underlying unhealthy flawed thinking and even core beliefs that have been woven into someone’s life script that is playing out every day.  I consider this project to be a basis for a way forward in client expression to access the hidden and uncover the underlying emotions related to a distortion of reality.

Well done Phil!!

Lesley Foulkes


Exhibition Feedback

In addition to comments recorded in the website Visitors Book, the following feedback has been received.

‘Congratulations. This is important work. This is evocative work. Have you begun to solicit galleries about a showing? Have you reached out to support agencies to promote your work? If not, you should. It could help more people. This is what visual art should do … move people to emotion and action. You are well on your way.’

Andrew Scrivani

Food Photographer, New York Times food writer

19 July 2018

‘Hi Philip,

I am just looking at, congratulations.

I like that you included a lot of text, and I appreciate the sensitive approach you’ve chosen.

I can imagine that people who are affected themselves find it very interesting to browse through.’

Mafalda Rakos

Photographer, author of I Want to disappear

26 July 2018

‘Hi Philip,

Well done for moving forward, jumping through the tech hoops and moving into the creative which at the end of the day is all that counts. A very valid and thought provoking series that successfully communicates Jo-Ana’s battle. The question at the end of the project is whether you feel the story is complete or whether there is more to say? Expand the story perhaps? Well done.’

Stewart Weir


05 August 2018

You Have Nothing to Worry About – Melissa Spitz

Spitz - mom's vacation

Spitz, 2013. Mom’s Vacation

Melissa Spitz’s You Have Nothing to Worry About describes the tumultuous relationship between her and her mother.

From her earliest memory, her mother has suffered from mental illness and substance abuse. The diagnosis of her condition frequently changing from one of alcoholism to dissociative identity disorder.

This has led to the breakdown of her parents’ marriage, and a relationship between mother and daughter which is resentment filled.

You Have Nothing to Worry About is described by Spitz as a ‘complex and difficult body of work’, having images which, she informs us, are ‘simultaneously upsetting and encouraging, honest and theatrical, loving and hateful’.

For me, the images have a richness, but also have a repellent quality. I oscillate between wanting to view the images on one hand, and not wanting to view them on the other. The images in this series contain a punctum (Barthes, 1980), a detail which ‘pricks or bruises’ the viewer’s consciousness, evoking a sense of emotion.

Spitz’s work is significant to me for the way in which it is approached.

Firstly, she has considerable self-awareness of how she interacts as a photographer with her subject

“There was never really a conscious decision of going to photograph my mentally ill mother,” says Spitz, yet, in the shadow of the stress, her lens became a mechanism through which she communicated with her family. “It was the easiest way to give me a reason to go home but still be separated from the situation, via the physical act of putting a camera up in front of my face,” she explains (Richter, 2015).

Secondly, Spitz appreciates the impact of her intervention as a photographer upon the subject.

I am fully aware that my mother thrives on being the center of attention and that, at times, our portrait sessions encourage her erratic behaviour’ (Spitz, 2018).

Spitz is in a position to influence. How she approaches one moment in a shoot can affect what happens for the rest of that session, how she approaches a shoot can determine the way in which future shoots proceed.

Jo-Ana was different. The moments in time upon which the still life images were based were already fixed, immutable. The subject’s thoughts were already captured in a diary and could not be influenced by the act of my photography. Each outcome had already been determined.

I propose a future project investigating alcoholism. This will be different again, placing me closer to the situation in which Spitz finds herself – a position of being able to influence the perceptions held by subject’s regarding their circumstances.

Molloy (2018) states that a key question when producing participatory works is ‘what difference does it make having me being part of the story?’

Mannay (2016) seems to suggest an answer to this question, suggesting that ‘consideration is given to the relationships between participants and researchers, and acknowledge that even when the ‘intrusive presence’ of the researcher steps out of the site of visual data production this leaves a space that is often filled by the ‘intrusive presence’ of others’.

Pauwels (2011) suggests that participatory productions place the social scientist in the position of participatory facilitator, and that research is conducted ‘with’ and not ‘on’ participants.

I think that, for me, this is the point to take away from Molloy’s presentation – to engage without influencing, to present a true and fair view.  In essence, ensuring that conceptual and practical filters which can be applied as a result of pre-knowledge and associated underlying assumptions (Walmsley and Johnson, 2003) are eliminated.



Barthes, Roland (1980). Camera Lucida: Reflections on Photography. New York: Hill & Wang

Mannay, Dawn (2016), Visual, Narrative and Creative Research Methods: Application, Reflection and Ethics. Oxon: Routledge

Molloy, Caroline (2018). ‘Guest Lecture (Research) – Caroline Molloy’. Lecture to PHO705 17/18 [online]. Available at: (accessed: Friday 23 March 2018)

Pauwels, L. (2011), ‘An Integrated Conceptual Framework for Visual Social Research’, in E. Margolis and L. Pauwels (eds) The Sage Handbook of Visual Research methods. London: Sage

Richter, T. (2015). ‘This woman documents her mother’s battle with mental illness’. [online]. Available at: (accessed: Monday 25 June 2018)

Spitz, M. (2018). ‘You Have Nothing to Worry About’. [online]. Available at: (accessed: Monday 25 June 2018)

Walmsley, J. and Johnson, K. (2003), Inclusive Research with People with Learning Disabilities: Past, Present and Futures. London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers

Welcome to the LTP – Irina Popova

Popova - men eat soup

Popova, 2015. Untitled

The first Labour Treatment for Profilactorium (LTP) was established in Kazakhstan 1967 and offered alcoholics and drug addicts rehabilitation in return for forced labour.

Operated along the lines of a prison, residents could be incarcerated for periods lasting from 6 months to 2 years. There was no right of appeal. There was no crime.

Should the residents have one, their home is rented out to meet the costs of their treatment. Any children are placed in care.

The LTP system met with strong protest from human rights campaigners in the USSR, and was closed down by Yeltsin in 1993 under perestroika. However, some LTPs still remain in operation in Belarus, Turkmenistan, and the Pridnestrovian Moldavian Republic.

Irina Popova is a documentary photographer and curator. Her book Welcome to the LTP is a journey through the Soviet-era passageways of despair of one Belarusian ‘workhouse for substance abusers’. She is the first photographer to be allowed access to such an establishment.

Draconian in concept, Draconian in practice – the LTPs are not an investment in people, instead there appears to be two objectives behind the system. Firstly, to remove the problem away from mainstream society, out of sight is out of mind. Secondly, to beat the addiction out of the residents with a proverbial stick.

The LTPs are a chimera of the penal system, being described by human rights activists in the USSR as ‘punitive psychotherapy’ – prison meets rehab.

Popova’s Welcome to the LTP conveys a strong message of not only addiction, but also abject poverty and loneliness.

Her images have a distinct richness to them. Which is in stark contrast to her subjects and their surroundings in Welcome to the LTP.

Grimy walls, dingy corridors, stark rooms – the outlook at every turn is dismal, hopeless, bleak. Popova’s images capture an infrastructure in decay, a system that was never going to work. The base level at which the decay starts, and the magnitude of that decay suggest that there was never any interest in the system, nor the people who would go to these centres. The system failing the system.

My projects to-date have explored alternative relationships with food. These have been interesting and rewarding projects to work on.

I feel that as my photography has developed, so has my interest in giving a voice to the socially disadvantaged through my practice.

Taking my three most recent projects in the order they were produced, this trend can be seen clearly: the cravings experienced by an athlete preparing for a competition, the interrelationship between diet and mental health, and the diaries of an anorexic.

With reference to the latter, eating disorders are a conveniently forgotten disease. Periodically there is a news article informing us that a celebrity has an eating disorder and the issue becomes topical for a very brief time, before being forgotten again.

Eating disorders are highly stigmatised. They are something that the general public are largely ignorant of, many believing them to be a lifestyle choice. The reality is that eating disorders are a serious mental illness. Some individuals are susceptible, they carry within them a ticking time bomb. For such individuals, family and societal pressures are merely triggers which stimulate an underlying condition.

Alcoholism shares some similarities with eating disorders. It is perceived by much of the general public as being a lifestyle choice, whilst in reality being a serious mental illness. There is much stigma attached to alcoholism. It destroys careers, homes, families, people.

Building on the success of Jo-Ana, my next project will investigate alcoholism. Popova’s work is a fascinating documentary, in view of my plan, however, it takes on new relevance.

Jo-Ana took me out of my comfort zone, and that was necessary for me to develop as a photographer. My next project needs to do the same, but in different ways.

My photography already has a definite characteristic style – close up, point of view still life compositions beautifully lit by natural light. I do not intend to deviate from this. However, I think my practice will develop, both technically and creatively, if I include some environmental shots in my next project. Popova’s Welcome to the LTP is a benchmark as to how this can be done.