Assignment 4: The Preparation Stage

It has been a while since I last posted on my blog or worked on my assignment.  I have been very busy with my son’s final school exams and that will hopefully end by Sunday.  After that I will be able to focus on my assignments and blog.

I have received an email from the OCA that my extension period ends on September 17 and that I have to ensure I complete all three level 1 units by the 1st of September 2017 otherwise I will be withdrawn from the degree study.  This course is my last unit of level 1 and so far I have two more assignments to submit.  Not much time is left and I have to work so hard to finish on time.  I am glad though that my kids’ school will end soon as I will have plenty of time to work on my own studies.

Preparation of the Series “Twins”:

I sat down with my girls and asked them to jot down what they like and dislike about being twins.


Then I came up with different ideas on how to illustrate the text into pictures.  I collaborated with a talented friend “Priyani” and asked her to work on some of the pieces I wanted to use in the photo shoots.


Some of the pieces were successful while others did not work quite well as I wanted it to be so I might either discard it or use it for another idea but we did take a fun photo of it though with my phone:


I will be posting more when I complete the project.

Assignment 4: Final Idea and Plan

After looking at the work of Jan Von Holleben suggested by my tutor and the work of Lorna Freytag, I am planning to use conceptual photography for this assignment.  I have always been fascinated by this type of photography.  Illustrating a specific idea using photography is basically what conceptual photography means, therefore I feel that this assignment specifically can be fulfilled using this type of photography.  I have tried this in one of my assignments for the old course The Art of Photography (TAOP) and it was the one I enjoyed the most.  I might not be there yet when it comes to inspiring ideas and outcomes but I am willing to learn and enjoy at the same time.

Coming up with an idea is the hardest part, the assignment asks for series of work aiming for 7 to 10 images.  I did not feel that the first plan would fulfill the requirements of this assignment.  I love the idea of combining drawings with photography but I could not come up with an idea that goes with the assignment’s needs.  I do not want to rush into doing anything just for the sake of finishing the assignment on time although I am running out of time but at the end if I don’t like what I produce, I will be so disappointed.  I thought since I am here to learn then why not do something I like and learn from and at the same time fulfills the requirements?

I am a mother of twin girls, I see them quarrel sometimes and other days they would be hugging and sharing everything.  They come to me complain about things and sometimes there would be a competition between them and comparisons!  At that moment I thought why not do a project about them, about twins!

I started searching online and found the work of Krisitna Varaksina, a photographer from New York.  Her project is titled, “You Are My Twin.”  The project is a psychological study of twins’ relationship shown with the help of metaphors as she explains.  Varaksina collaborated with a talented set designer called Espen Øydvin to create the props she used in her project.

Her project can be seen on this video:

You Are My Twin by Kristina Varaksina

Her project reminds me of the work of Jan Von Holleben which I have looked into previously as suggested by my tutor.

The only difference with my twins is that they are unidentical!  However, that gave me more ideas to think about.  The project idea developed while my girls were quarreling, I said to them:  “How about you two help me with my project?”, of course they both competed to help and I handed them a piece of paper and asked them both to jot down what they like and dislike about being twins.  I asked them to sit away from each other and write down their ideas on a piece of paper without talking to each other.  The plan worked to stop the fight and I got some nice ideas from what they’ve written.  They would be adding more tomorrow then we plan to discuss them and sketch ideas.

Bibliography / References:

Varaksina, K. (2015). You Are My Twin: A Personal Fine Art Photo Project [online].  PetaPixel. Available from: [Accessed 4 May, 2017].


Assignment 4: Initial Plans and Ideas

I was lost with different ideas for this assignment, most of them were ideas related to sad memories.  However, I refrain doing so after assignment 3.  I want to try different ideas, something fun and delightful other than sadness.

I emailed my tutor my proposal for assignment 4 in order to get feedback and help before I start.  My first thoughts were combining photographs with drawings.  My kids have a day at school where they are supposed to dress up as a character in a story book and this gave me the idea of talking to kids and asking them to draw themselves as the character that they would love to be so the text would be:  “If you are a character from a story book, what would you be?”  The idea is to take a portrait of the child and scan his/her drawing then combine both together using Photoshop.  I still don’t have an exact idea how the outcome would be but I am willing to experiment.

My tutor Jayne Taylor thinks the drawing is a nice idea but asked me to rethink about the text adding “might there be something rather expressive in each child’s individual handwriting style?”.

She also thought I might be interested in the work of Jan Von Holleben “Dreams Of Flying” invoking fantasy in a novel way, or the community project by Brandon Cawood “When I Grow Up“.  She also suggested I check the Tate Modern site for the work of inspiring artist as it is about to run a talk on text and photography.

Jan Von Holleben’s work “Dreams of Flying” is very inspiring:

The behind the scene shows the amount of work that went into this project:

The behind the scene of “Dreams of Flying”

In this series, Holleben makes nostalgic dreams come true in his photographs using visual representation of childhood and his personal childhood memories.  He gets inspired by classic childhood books and works with children from his local neighborhood to produce his projects.  Everything is possible. You can fly, you can hide and you have all powers you want!

I personally liked his project “Mystery Of Monsters” where Holleben took the kids to explore their adventure places and search for secrets and interesting things to discover the mystery of monsters!  I loved his use of conceptual illustrative photography where he tries to translate a subject matter into an image.  The use of different materials such as leaves and fruits and others gives me more to think about other than the drawing of the kids by itself.  Holleben comes with his own story and ideas and sometimes the kids push him for other adventures and come up with different ideas themselves.  He does not use photoshop but he creates his images using materials and capture them on camera.  I am now thinking to involve the kids with the initial idea and see where it goes from there.

For “When I Grow Up,” project by Brandon Cawood, Cawood created cinematic portraits of 5th grade students acting out their future careers.  He dressed them up and shot against a white background in the school auditorium.  The photos were published as a calendar and the money raised from them went towards the charity City of Refuge for tutoring programs and funds to further the education of impoverished youth.

I liked the concept of the project and the good cause behind it, however, the result to me is disappointing.  I personally did not like the overshopped HDR images.  I do enjoy cinematic photographs however, these are too much for my liking.

On the other hand, I came across the work of Lorna Freytag who combines her love for photography, illustration and children stories to come up with beautiful images.  Freytag is a children’s book illustrator, author and fashion photographer who uses digital camera and post production techniques to produce an image.

My next step will be experimenting with different techniques to see where that takes me.

Bibliography / References:

Cawood, B. When I Grow Up: Cinematic Portraits of Fifth Graders in Their Future Careers [online]. PetaPixel.  Available from: [Accessed 29 April, 2017].

Freytag, L.  Lorna Freytag Website [online]. Available from: [Accessed 29 April, 2017].

Holleben, J., V.  Jan Von Holleben Website [online]. Available from:  [Accessed 29 April, 2017].

Camera Lucida: Roland Barthes’ Meditation on his Mother’s Death.

My tutor Jayne recommended a reading of Camera Lucida from the part where Roland Barthes meditates on the elusive nature of memory in relation to his deceased mother.  I found the book hard to understand at the beginning and I did read some of the recommended part before but I decided to re-read it twice and only when my mind is ready to absorb dense information.  To my surprise, I loved it and I very much enjoyed this part, it relates so much to my situation when I lost my grandmother.  I am here summarizing what I understood from the book:

After the death of his mother’ Barthes went through her photographs.  He had no hope of “finding” her.  Barthes was looking for a photograph that “speaks” of his mother.  He found lots of photographs of her but they all speak of history “his non-existence“.  A picture of her when he was not born yet, where history separates him from her, when there is no memory of him of her.

Barthes wanted to discover in her photographs, objects that reminds him of her, things that he saw and remembers such as objects she kept on her dressing table, her ivory powder box, etc.

Barthes considers the time when his mother was alive before him is history, a period that is good to see and acknowledge but not recognizable to him since he did not exist at that time.  The fashion, clothes she wore, items etc all unrecognizable to him.  He wanted a photograph of her that reminds him of the face he saw and recognized, the smell he loved and the memory of his existence with her that he cherish.  He wanted to find her in that photograph.

Barthes states that Photography forced him to perform what he called a “painful labor” as he was struggling to find the essence of his mother’s identity, the true “complete” her until he found the “Winter Garden Photograph” which to him provokes her truth and not just her identity.

The photograph was very old with blunted corners and faded sepia print.  It shows his mother ate age 5 with her brother age 7 at the time (1898) posed side by side under the palms of the Winter Garden (a house where his mother was born).

Barthes rediscovered his mother in this photograph.  It reveals all the innocence and kindness that he sees in his mother being a grownup.

Barthes looked at the old photographs by moving back through time just like Greeks who entered into death backwards, what they had before them was their past.  In the Winter Garden photograph, Barthes found his mother, the little girl in that old photograph is the little girl of his that she became during her illness.  The one he nursed and helped during her weakness.

To me the photograph of my grandmother that I cherish the most and reminds me more of her is an old Polaroid photo of her hugging me tightly while I am sitting on her lap.  My grandfather’s thumb that ruined a small part of the photo, my grandmother’s sweet look at me is the true “her” that I missed.  I can still hear her asking my grandfather to take the photo of the two of us and I can still hear my grandfather asking me to smile.  I don’t remember how old I was perhaps 10 but I remember everything about this photo and the place where it was taken.  Looking at the photo you can read the sweetness and kindness in my grandmother’s face.  The photograph is also so close to my heart because although my grandfather is not in it but I still see him in the photo from the mark he left of his thumb and him being behind the camera making a conversation with both of us (my grandmother and I).  I did not only miss her but I also miss him.  They both played a big part in my life and losing them was the most painful.  The look in my eyes in that particular photograph seems like if I knew this was coming, I was not smiling, I just stared at the camera!  The photograph to me talks about both of them, the sweet relationship between them and the love they have for me.  Those things that I remember and cherish.

Looking at the photographs I created for my grandmother’s memory, one photograph in particular explains me the most after their death:


When everything has ended and you can no longer hear the voices of the people you love or visit the places they were once in, it’s no longer the same place, everything is changed, everything is different, everything is gone, only painful memories stay…

Bibliography / References:

Barthes, R. (2008) Camera Lucida. TATE Publishing: London.

Assignment 3: Re-sequencing

My tutor questioned the inclusion of the first image in the final edit and if it fits with the atmosphere of the others.  She asked that I pin the idea behind the image more in my written summary.

Below is the image in question:



To me this photograph shows what I thought I knew!  That I can keep my grandmother forever, that I would stay in this house surrounded by my grandparents and enjoy the play, the warmth, the forever happiness.  That the presence of my grandmother will make my heart sing of joy and never break.  The connection between happiness and memory is the dream and reminisce that makes me feel better and gives me the feeling of warmth and acceptance.

The photographs that comes after this one in the series shows how dreams are sweet yet short!  Thus, I decided to start my series with this dream.

For the sequencing of the photographs my tutor suggested that I remove image 4 and avoid placing images 2 and 3 together as the poses are very similar.  So here is the series after re-sequencing them:

















Assignment 3: Tutor Feedback and Reflection

I was so pleased with the feedback I got from my tutor and so happy that she liked my work, I worked so hard on this particular assignment and I am glad it payed off.

Below is my tutor’s feedback for assignment 3 and my reflection in blue italics. For a PDF file of the original feedback please click here.

Overall Comments
A thoughtful, well-conceived, well-expressed and beautifully-shot assignment Ghada. The work successfully conveys an emotional experience that is simultaneously universal and intensely personal. You have achieved this by working through the creative process quite organically, from the germ of the initial idea, through experimentation, development and finally some thoughtful editing/presentation decisions. Well done.

Assessment potential
I understand your aim is to go for the Photography Degree and that you plan to submit your work for assessment at the end of this course. From the work you have shown in this assignment, providing you commit yourself to the course, I believe you have the potential to pass at assessment. In order to meet all the assessment criteria, there are certain areas you will need to focus on, which I will outline in my feedback.

Feedback on assignment

You’ve produced some very beautiful and evocative images here, Ghada. The series communicates a universally-recognisable sense of loss and grief.

Bereavement creates a desire to somehow revisit or recapture the past, and this is conveyed extremely well through your choice of location and in casting your daughter as your younger self. The location itself is incredibly rich with the impression of layers of personal history, and with traces of the passing of time – the atmosphere is palpable. The interior shots worked particularly well with the wide-angle lens, and you’ve directed your model with confidence throughout – great stuff.

This time I very much agree with your decision to present the images in black & white – it greatly heightens the psychological effect of the images and suggests the innate surreality of memory (and, perhaps, dream?).

What makes this a successful series is worth summarising for your own future reference:-
• Your initial brainstorming of ideas
• Your trial-and-error approach to shooting
• Your experimental approach
• Your research and preparation
• Your willingness to be more self-critical at the image-selection (editing) stage
• Most importantly: the very personal resonance of the subject matter (- you wanted to “express something” rather than simply “photograph something”).

In terms of the final edit, I might question the inclusion of the first image – clearly a strong image in itself – but does it fit with the atmosphere of the others? Perhaps you just need to pin down the idea behind the image more in your written summary.

In terms of sequencing, there is some visual repetition across images 2 and 3; the poses are very similar at first glance, so I would possibly avoid placing them together in the sequence.

Similar repetition (of pose) between 4 and 7. Consider removing image 4 from the series – it doesn’t seem to add much to the series, in comparison with the others, so has the effect of diluting the work just a little.   (See post here for the sequencing and the inclusion of first image).

• Again, some good work produced through the coursework exercises, at times illuminating your desire for self-expression through photography (as in the ‘window’ exercise).

• I’m glad to see that you have taken on board some of the advice from the book Behind the Lens – this has clearly had a beneficial impact on your way of working.
• I would highly recommend a reading of Camera Lucida in connection to this assignment in particular, as here Barthes meditates on the elusive nature of memory in relation to his deceased mother.  (See post here).
• Please do continue to reflect on how your research is feeding into how you think about and take photographs.

Learning Log
• You’ve made a particularly good learning log entry here, Ghada. This is what the learning log is all about: asking questions, working through an idea via research and then testing it that idea within your own practice.
• It’s evident that the learning log is beginning to function more as a blog or notebook for your thoughts and ideas as they develop; including tests, experiments, independent research, self-reflection.

Suggested reading/viewing
• Camera Lucida by Roland Barthes, as above – a small but dense book that I think you’ll enjoy re-reading as your studies progress (essential text).
• Are you aware of the work of Francesca Woodman? She’s an important artist for you to be aware of and able to reference in terms of this assignment.  (See post here).

Pointers for the next assignment / assessment
• Would you mind sending me a brief (200ish words) proposal for your next assignment please, Ghada, articulating the kind of images you hope to create and why (and also how). As you know, this can be very helpful in focusing initial thoughts as well as giving me the chance to suggest relevant references.

Assignment 3: Grandma

The Brief:

We are to choose between a. ‘Mirror’ or b. ‘Window’.  I chose a. ‘Mirror’.

A.  ‘Mirror’

Choose a community that you’re already a part of. It could be your child’s nursery or your regular gym class, but it should be something that takes up a substantial amount of your interest and time. Create a photographic response to how this group informs who you are as a person. What aspects of this group or community reflect on you? What do you share? How does it function as a mirror reflection of who you are?

Assignment 3: Grandma

The past couple of months were really hard for the family.  We lost a close member of our family (my cousin) and two months after we lost my dearest grandmother.  I loved my  grandmother more than anyone, she was my best friend.  She made me feel loved beyond measure.  I would always go to her if I have a problem and she would be the first to know whenever I got good news.  Coping with the loss was very hard therefore, photography is my way to express my feelings of grief.

Inspired by Sharon Boothroyd’s series “Edelweiss” see post here, Samantha Everton and Erwin Olaf’s style and ideas see post here, the popular song “Que Sera, Sera”and my grandmother’s old house; this series was made.  The initial plans, research and all has been documented in the posts under the menu assignments: assignment 3: The Making of the Series (Grandma).

The final images are shown full size below and in sequence:

And a slideshow to show the sequencing:

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I wanted to make this series as a part of my grieving process.  It was difficult during the shooting process because I had to visit my grandmother’s house, the place I lived in during all my childhood life and part of my adult life as well before getting married.  It was also hard looking at the final shots and sequencing them according to what I feel.  This all brings back memories and I find it hard to even write about.  I had to do this because I needed something therapeutic  and photography is my only creative expression.

I used my Canon EOS 5D Mark III camera and I tried to stick with one or two lenses to simplify things taking the advice of my tutor in the feedback of assignment 2.  I basically used only one lens here which is the EF16-35mm f/2.8L USM except for the closeup portrait #8 where I used my EF100mm f/2.8 Macro USM lens and photograph #7 where I used my 50mm f/1.4 USM lens.  I had my tripod and props such as the dried flowers, teddy bear, stool and balloons.  I dressed my model in a white dress and white shoes.  I took the shots in the places I felt more connected to and rooms with more memories and stories.

Editing the photographs was done in Photoshop while the ideas were planned at the photoshoot like for example the levitation photos which were not used for the final series. I converted my photos to black and white to give them a dignified and quasi-timeless quality.  The black and white also gives the photos a moody feel when in low light and that is what I am looking for.  I did all the shots in low light using only light coming from the windows inside and daylight outside.  To me there is a stronger emotional connection with the subject when there is no colour distraction.  The final selections and sequencing process can be seen here.

The series translates my feelings of sadness, fear and loneliness after the death of my grandmother expressed through my daughter.  The series is very personal and works as a mirror to my own self at a grieving moment.  The dark shadows and intense contrast in the photographs create moods and intensifies my deep emotions and feeling of loneliness and grief.  It’s all about letting go and trying to heal.

Assignment 3: More Research and Thoughts

Everyone as a child experienced fear at a certain age, it is a natural part of childhood.  Most common childhood fears are:  loud noises, the dark, separation, strangers, noises at night, scary shows and the list goes on and on.  I as a child experienced different kinds of fears which I am sure others had as well.

  • I was scared of the dark, I would curl up as a ball in bed thinking something would pop up from under the bed and bite me!
  • I had anxiety that I might be an adopted child.
  • I was and still afraid of sharks and that came from watching (Jaws) as a child.
  • I was scared of angry teachers especially if I forgot to do my homework.  The old days it was allowed for the teachers to discipline the kids by hitting them with a ruler on the hand.
  • I was scared of being alone.
  • I was scared of scary masks and shadows that resemble scary things.
  • I was paranoid that people on frames would actually talk to me at night and that goes same with dolls and toys.
  • When looking at the mirror, I fear I would see someone behind me just like Dracula who you can only see in mirrors!
  • When shampooing and my eyes are closed; I fear a monster will be in the bathroom staring at my face and that I would see it when I open my eyes.  I find it strange that lots of people share this fear!

There are also certain things that upsets a child along with the fears.

Things that upset kids:

  • Losing or breaking their toys.
  • Comparing them to others.
  • A new baby.
  • Taking toys away as a punishment.
  • Not praising kids for their achievements.
  • Using negative words.
  • Giving attention to one sibling more than the other.
  • Using the frequent word “no”.
  • Threatened to be punished for a bad behavior.
  • Discipline punishments such as the naughty corner or naughty chair.
  • Family problems even the simplest yelling or arguing one.
  • Labeling kids negatively such as crybaby, selfish or whiner etc.
  • Not giving a child what he/she wants.
  • Not being able to solve a problem either at school or simple equations.
  • Being ignored.
  • Going to school or having to do their homework.

On the other hand, things that upset and traumatize adults are (in short):

  • Losing family members or someone very close (death).
  • Losing one self.
  • Dealing with painful memories and traumas.
  • Depression.
  • Separation or divorce.

Researching this subject and listing points down shows how wide the subject is and I would like to narrow it down and address a simple matter which addresses me as a person.  When I was a child, these child fears and matters would upset me a lot and it would feel like it is the end of the world but when one grows older all these would seem nothing compared to adults’ problems and one would wish that they go back to being kids and knowing that their biggest fear would be losing a toy or breaking it!  Saying this I do not under-estimate the fears or phobia that a child might have that might affect him/her as an adult later, I am just creating a photographic series about the simplicity of my own childhood fears recollection and memory compared to my painful adults’ reality.

Also the popular song “Que Sera, Sera” which was written by Ray Evans and sang by Doris Day brings lots of memories.  I personally heard it by Michael Barratt (Shakin’ Stevens) when I was a child, a British rock and roll singer and songwriter who was the UK’s biggest selling singles artist of the 1980s.  The three verses of the song expresses acceptance of something that one has no control of.  The girl asks her mother about what the future holds for her, whether she is going to be pretty or rich and about her adulthood, love and future.  The mother will always answer the same

Que sera, sera
Whatever will be, will be
The future’s not ours to see
Que sera, sera

Which means whatever is meant to happen; will happen.

This song comes to my mind whenever I think about the photographic series I want to create!  I am thinking perhaps the idea of how being a child all that I wanted and hoped for is being rich and pretty (plain whishes) but growing up and losing family members proved that these two wishes are not essential but family is everything.

I need to absorb all these ideas and focus on the choices I want to go for to create a photographic set that would tell my story in a narrative sequenced way.

Bibliography / References:

Asha Das (2015). 6 Things That Can Upset Kids [online].  Boldsky Limitless Living.  Available from: [Accessed 08, January 2017].

Annie Stuart (2007). Childhood Fears and Anxieties [online]. WebMD. Available from: [Accessed 08, January 2017].

Brenna Hicks (2011).  10 Things Not to Say to Your Kids [online]. The Kid Counselor. Available from: [Accessed 08, January 2017].

Tara Richards (2009). Top 10 Toddler Fears [online]. Parents. Available from: [Accessed 08, January 2017].

Assignment 3: Research: Sharon Boothroyd

Sharon Boothroyd is a photographic artist based in London.  While I was looking at her series “If you get married again, will you still love me?” I was drawn to the way she transfers her thoughts and ideas to photographs.  I then decided to search more of her work in case I find something that will help me with the idea I wanted to work on for assignment 3.  It is after I saw her series “Edelweiss” that I was able to gather more information and thoughts on how to start.

Sharon explains that Edelweiss is an ongoing series conceived as a visual lullaby using her daughters Anaïs and Larissa.  The series is about motherhood.  It tells the story of her hopes and fears as a new mum.  Her series is generally based on the lullaby.

©Sharon Boothroyd

The complete series can be found here.

Boothroyd didn’t want to create cute pictures using her daughters, thus she looked for a concept that will drive her material with.  She did so by using the visual lullaby to create a clash between innocence and something more sinister.  She explains that to stay away from the ordinary cute pictures; she needed a harsh contrast to measure against.

When asked about her hopes and plans for this work; she responded:  “I hope I can create a discussion in the photography world that engages with the idea of childhood and how adults view and interpret it. In one sense we feel cut off from it and it becomes inaccessible, even though we have all been there. This forgetfulness interests me. I think we have a lot to learn about ourselves by looking at children and I want to use myself as a starting point.

Good stories will always have a dose of good and evil to it in a healthy way she states.

Bibliography / References:

Sharon Boothroyd. Edelweiss [online].  SB.  Available from: [Accessed 8, January 2017].

Sharon Boothroyd.  Edelweiss, by Sharon Boothroyd [online]. Camera Obscura. Available from: [Accessed 8, January 2017].

Assignment 3: Final Idea and Plan

After reading the book suggested by my tutor Jayne (Behind the Image); I have decided not to go with my initial idea which was working on (b. Window) project for the tea or moonstone mining community in Srilanka (see post here).  Jayne was also against the idea of combining coursework with my holiday.  She advised to think about the following when making an informal proposal for the project:

The What (what will you shoot)?; Why (concept)?; How? (technical considerations plus theoretical research).

After a lot of thoughts; I decided to do (b. Mirror).  The idea is about how my fears were very simple when I was young compared to the fears I have being an adult. I have been through a lot last year (2016) with the loss of my close cousin and grandmother at the same time and I would like to interpret some of my emotions using my daughter as a model. The idea was there from the beginning but I wasn’t sure how to start until I saw the work of Sharon Boothroyd in her series “Edelweiss” which I will do some research on.

The song “Que Sera, Sera” plays a part also as its one of my childhood memories. My daughter will play me and my emotions and fears, it will be staged photographs. I might go black and white on this one as sometimes the mood of it interprets my feelings better but that is not confirmed yet until I work on the ideas.

Now that I have a clear idea on what to do; I will start with my research on the subject.