Guest Lecture: Victoria Forrest – Design

Guest lecture – Victoria Forrest

12 June 2018, 1330 hrs

From contemporaneous notes


Forrest outlined five principles which she employs during the process of design:

1). Identify your audience


2). Choose a format appropriate to the audience

This could be a pdf, book, pamphlet, postcard – key point is appropriateness to the audience


3). Use the edit for the narrative

The edited narrative needs to fit with the chosen format

There is a difference between the story the photographer wants to tell, and the story the photographs are able to tell

Always print out, it enables you to see what you have to work with, it also highlights the difference between what the photographer wants to say, and what can be seen and is working

Wider edit – images which are not brilliant but really useful as hinges to use to make the narrative flow for the objective reader, these are brilliant for helping the reader understand the transition from one part of the story to another


4). Design to enhance the message

The overall design is not just an aesthetic, it has an important function of communication

The design is used communicate not only what is said but the order and the tone with which it is read and understood

Size, colour, etc. all allow you the reader to enter the narrative at different points

Case study: Remote Scottish Post Boxes (Parr, 2017)

The packaging for the publication is designed around the concept of the photography, i.e. the slip case is pillar box red and black, front and back respectively

A gloss lamination evokes a sense of the cast iron construction of post boxes

Typography emulates the typography found on post boxes

The series of books are designed to look like letters inside a post box

A postcard edition was packaged in a box modelled on a post box – underlining the very purpose of the post box

Two limited editions featured either two or four prints, with these being packaged in envelopes resembling letters for posting, the envelopes themselves featuring unused, unfranked second hand vintage stamps

Mechanics of page layouts – try to achieve consistency throughout

Don’t be afraid of a very simple page layout – vibrancy and message come from the images themselves and not how they are laid out

Subtleties should be in the photography, not the page layouts

Designs and layouts arising from collaboration between the photography and the publisher can be varied and complex

Designs from a publishing house can be more staid


5). Document and promote

General points

The evaluation process for interactive digital imaging is different to the evaluation process for prints

Books are linear, interactive books aren’t, however, the starting point needs to be the same

Self-publishing – there can be a quality issue

Should the work be published?

This comes down to editorial acumen

500 units for a publication is manageable, 5000 units is not

A common publishing pitfall is unit price – beware of hidden costs

A Place on the Map

‘In terms of young art students, I think they need to develop a point of view and then fully work through that idea. Sometimes we look at work by young artists and they are all over the map, so to speak. It’s a disparate body of work. What we’re interested in when looking at young work, is that a photographer has taken an idea and really explored it.’

– Katherine Hinds (in Read, 2014)


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

Establishing a Brand


Jo-Ana logo, June 2018

Jo-Ana aims to help raise public awareness of anorexia by visually describing the diaries of an anorexic in photographs.

The exhibition will be marketed via various social media channels, as well as those which are more traditional.

To grab audience attention and make the exhibition marketing something memorable, a brand has been established.

There are three main components to the exhibition: an online gallery with supporting text, both of which are hosted on a clean website.

The gallery itself has a limited palette (black and white), supporting text is in keeping with this scheme. Logos, icons and navigational text, however, are in a range of colours deliberately chosen to be complimentary or harmonistic.

The project logo was initially in gold, using a handwriting style font. As the project developed it became apparent that this colour could not be seen consistently across a range of devices, browsers or social media platforms.

Consequently, a colour scheme with colours which was uniform (as far as is practically possible) across a range of devices, browsers and social media channels was needed.

Variations on cyan and magenta were identified as working effectively in combination whilst remaining within the criteria set for the colour scheme.

However, all devices and browsers still remained unequal and many hues were tried out in many combinations before colours were identified which could be viewed (fairly) uniformly. Note, use of the word fairly – it is impossible to legislate for individual service settings which arise as phones, tablets, etc. are set according to personal taste.

‘Recognized Experts’

‘Curators are, above all, the institutionally recognized experts of the artworld establishment, whether they operate in an institution or independently. More than art critics or gallery dealers, they establish the meanings and status of contemporary art through its acquisition, exhibition, and interpretation.’

Mari Carmen Ramirez, Curator of Latin American Art (in Read, 2014)


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

Jo-Ana: Draft Project Descriptor

We will beat you with a stick, but if you bruise, it’s your fault.

Anorexia is a form of self-harm, quite capable of taking the sufferer to the point of self-destruction. Wanting the condition to progress, to become more emaciated, is part of the illness.

It is a severe mental illness which ultimately has a physical manifestation.

Sadly, it is rarely viewed as such, more commonly being regarded as a lifestyle choice.

Jo-Ana is a photographic description of diary entries made by one sufferer.

The project was undertaken largely for personal reasons, having witnessed someone suffering from anorexia first-hand. I have also witnessed first-hand the ignorance that surrounds anorexia and eating disorders in general.

There is a huge amount of stigma attached to anorexia, it is a very taboo subject and sufferers feel compelled to keep so much hidden away. Anorexia is something that happens to other people. Anorexia is a guilty secret.

Anorexia has many triggers but family, peer and societal expectations are commonly cited by sufferers as being causative factors. Society and technology contrive to enable a sub-culture from which anorexics can derive mutual support – thinspiration. The images of progressively emaciated bodies and words of encouragement which are shared within the pro-ana community are disturbing.

There exists, then, a distressing irony. Societies standards exert a pressure on susceptible individuals which can trigger an eating disorder – most people are aware of the fashion industry favouring anorexic looking models for example. And yet succumbing to an eating disorder is regarded as something shameful. In essence, we will beat you with a stick, but if you bruise, it’s your fault.

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

We document war, poverty and famine. Why is it considered unacceptable to document the causes and effects of eating disorders?

People need to see the reality of eating disorders, and the reality is shocking.

How can people be aware of and understand social issues if they only see a sanitised view?

Jo-Ana, then, is a collaboration which balances the participant’s voice with creative vision.

Aims for the project are to help dispel some of the ignorance relating to eating disorders, to raise awareness regarding the signs and symptoms of the disease and the sub-culture which helps drive the illness.

We need to establish an antithesis to the pro-ana culture. We need to establish a culture in which it is acceptable to ask for, to offer, and to accept help regarding eating disorders.

It must become acceptable to talk about anorexia, eating disorders, and mental illness in general.

It must be acceptable to be different, to be an individual.

People are much, much more than their appearance.

Reflecting on Weeks 11 to 15, FMP

Several artists have incorporated text into their images, either directly as part of the artwork itself, or as something supplemental. I found Kurt Schwitters Dadaist work appealing. Miss Blanche, I feel, is particularly aesthetically pleasing. (See ‘Text messages’).

Work on the images for Jo-Ana has continued, mainly focusing on how to present the diary extracts upon which the project is based. This aspect of the project’s development has become all consuming.

How do we present text in an image? How do we present text when the text itself is the subject of the image?

Several alternatives have been tried (see ‘Evolution’). In short, though, all these options can be ruled out for very valid reasons, leaving just two possible options for presentation.

First, a square on, evenly lit photograph of the diary page alone.

Second, a still life image composition containing the appropriate diary extract together with various personal effects of the diarist.

The former, I believe, is an overly formal type of presentation most suited to an academic study. It is, I feel, boring and staid. More importantly, though, 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 happens to suffer from anorexia before going on to recover.

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 the 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.

Including everyday objects is to include the person and the personality. It also gives the viewing audience images which are not only easier to read, but which brings them into Jo’s world. Images which break down the fourth wall. Images which are real because they contain objects which are used by Jo, objects which they probably use or see being used every day. To the viewer, these items bring additional interest. For those with less visual literacy, these everyday objects provide a connection between the artist and the audience via the artwork.

See also: ‘One Man’s Meat …’