My narrative, but why?! When and Where?!

So I want my final narrative sequence to have an abstract and qwerky nature which can take the viewer on a journey which unfolds within itself, by looking at some of Duane Michals sequences I have had a brain wave on how this is possible. Michals has a way of deceiving the viewer by including the current or next frame within the next frame, hard to describe in writing which I’m finding rather annoying when it comes to this blog…. Although my experiments I previously tried explain the idea much better than I can at this moment.

With taking some of the tricks of Duane Michals I feel like I could put together an engaging narrative, although Michals tricks with a frame are more diverse than my own I’m not concerned because I also want to portray a clear narrative to the viewer.

So why am I choosing to show my narrative on this way?!

The reason is to create a sense of travel through the technology of cameras using a organic light source as a highway. By having the next camera within the current cameras viewfinder I hope to create a deep connection between each camera to the next; by traveling directly through the cameras creates a instant bond between the subjects and acts as a path, a Calendar, journey and the progress in capturing light.

At the moment I feel rather confident with my ideas and how to actually carry it out but I’m trying not to visualise my sequence in immense detail right now because I’d rather be surprised and let the images evolve. The main thing for me to do now is to start shooting and gather more dynamic research.

However saying that I should think about where my images are going to be taken\ where my cameras should be placed. I like the idea of having a simple backdrop for the cameras to sit on, simple backgrounds\ environments won’t take any attention away from the  cameras and the filled viewfinders, I could also use backgrounds I feel are fit for the period in which the cameras were used in the most over time but that may be difficult to achieve in the short amount of time, I’m not very good at going out on missions laterly due to injury.



Building My Final pieces and concepts

I’m creating a narrative which explores the technology of capturing light: Why? because light has always been the same in terms of what we see and experience however our technology to capture it has become more and more advanced. I could use one light source and travel through the lenses of period cameras to end back at the light source. This way I can follow light, through a object which captures light, through the devices stages to end back at the light source.


My narrative has to start with a main light source, this light source is going to travel through the multiple lenses of my cameras and carry the viewer through the circular narrative ending up back at the light source for the last frame. I had a few ideas at first but I have to think of which source to use and why, so my first idea came to me in terms of how we have used light to help us through the ages, I think this was linked to the way light has helped us create cameras but this link is very loose. I was thinking about using a candle as my main light source, a candle or older equivalents have been used by us for thousands of years, a perfect natural light source like fire holds a strong position in terms of never becoming obsolete, driving entire civilisations to evolve; this form of natural light does now have to change, does not have to evolve or become outsource; fire and the light it brings is the most natural source of light. So the idea of using as candle was really appealing at first, I felt I was on the right track but I could go further than that.

After a tutorial and a chat with fellow students it became very obvious that I was missing a light source that was of the up most importance, a light source which has made our world, grows our food, controls our environments and is the main reason there is life on this planet in the first place. THE SUN.


Definitely the right light source to start with, the Sun is also the main light used within photography, the element which most likely started the practice in the first place. So how do I want to capture the sun and in what context? I think the best way for me to capture the sun is to souly concentrate on the sun itself, to use the sun as the main focus is obvious but I don’t want any other material within the image apart from the surrounding clouds. I want to the first and last frame to have a undoubted focus on the light of the sun, I want the light to be a main element from the start to the finish. We will be following this strong, natural light source through our technology of capturing it on film and then digitally.


how-the-camera-works ZCUTAWAYLG

One clever piece of technology which I am very fond of is the Pentaprism within the top of the camera, this 5 sided prism is used to deviate a beam of light by 90 degrees. This allows us to view the image the right way around rather than upside down and back to front.



I want to look at cameras and how we have got to the stage we are at so far, I want to look at the mechanics of a camera and how they have developed over time to capture light more effectively. Also go into detail about the specific cameras and how they changed the way we see and capture light. For example the Brownie camera was one of the first accessible cameras to the public, opening up this entire world of photographic practice to the world.

I think this is the best way for me to go, concentrate on the more commercial and accessible cameras that were available to the public, the reason for this is for one to build a relationship with the viewer, not many people got to experiment with cameras when they first arrived so this would then make my sequence involve plate cameras and equipment which just isn’t around for me to capture, equipment which people didn’t have access to in the first place. So starting with a brownie camera seems right, one of the first cameras which gave anyone the opportunity to capture light.


The brownie camera had done something very special, or should I say the “Kodak” who brought these cameras into the world; these cameras started the birth of domestic film and made capturing light a household availability. They had simple designs and not much technology now we look back but at the time this was revolutionary and changed the world of photography forever. These cameras gave birth to the family photo album, the never ending family portraits and holiday snaps; these brownie cameras gave the average person the opportunity to capture light and it quickly became a much sort after commodity.  Brownie cameras came onto the market in 1900 and instantly became a icon in the world of photography and continued to be bought new up until the 1960s, the cameras are still in use by people today.

“You press the button, we do the rest” promised George Eastman in 1888 with this advertising slogan for his Kodak camera.

So this feels right for me to start my journey through the lens of a Brownie camera.


The images captured by Brownie cameras were not amazingly detailed but they definitely have a very pleasing aesthetic to them, the images captured in a Brownie camera was always black and white obviously up until the invention of colour film. I should think about this in presenting my images, would I shoot this camera in black and white to keep with it’s history? I’m not to sure.

123190 brownie girl-with-brownie-camera

35mm Bellow/ Folding Camera

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The next camera which I want to use is the classical folding/bellow camera, this was the next step in the innovation of cameras and started to guide the formats and shape in which most film cameras in the future will follow, apart from the folding lens the system is to be kept and evolved over time. I really like the aesthetic of these cameras, they hold real character and history. Folding cameras dominated the construction of cameras from 1900 till 1940, however after the war these cameras started to decline due to the introduction of the more traditional 35mm film camera.

So Folding Cameras were a step forward from Brownie cameras, a new point in the technology of capturing light and revealing a future within the practice of photography. These Folding Cameras can dramatically change in size according to what format is being used however the camera I’m going to concentrate on is a another easily accessible camera which the public could buy and use.

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A Twin Lens Reflex camera has to be one of my favourite cameras, I think they are a beautifully constructed piece of technology and make the art of photography much more personal due to their fixed lens, you can get really close to subjects with these cameras and they can hold amazing amount of detail. Although these cameras were in practice from the early 1900s their technology was much different than the brownie and folding cameras, the twin lens feature allows the photographer to see through one lens and capture through another. There is a matt view finder at the top of the camera which is a brilliant and pleasing feature. But the reason for me to use this camera after the Folding Camera is because of the time in which I feel the camera was used at its best, it was developed like every camera over time but had its own results. Used a lot in the 1950/60s with some of my favourite photographers.

Vivian Maier

vivian-maier-4-e1304891853646 vivian-maier-6 Vivian-Maier-Self-Portrait

The viewfinder on top of the camera will be a great frame to hold my previous image and will add more dynamics to my sequence.

35mm Film Camera


The more modern and friendly camera which became a giant within the domestication of cameras is the 35mm film camera, a classic. I love using these cameras, I started using film when I first picked up a camera and have to admit I miss using it all the time, however film is expensive these days and us students have to eat! So this will be my next transition between cameras, 35mm are still widely used and have really made photography more accessible.

DIGITAL SLR (single lens reflex) CAMERA


The modern day camera, most people now days have a digital camera, the digital world has dominated the use of film with its easy to process, view and edit tendencies. I do love digital photography but I do feel that there is more value in film, shots contain more patience and effort to achieve and the longer editing processes make me feel closer to the images which I am producing, this is my only problem with using a digital format. I will be using a digital camera as the final camera in my sequences, we have not passed the technology yet and this is our current format.


When I think of light I often think about photography and how light is it’s biggest factor, after all that’s what cameras do, capture light but how can I show this in a narrative, how can I put my thoughts into practice.

My narrative will be taking the viewer on a journey through the lenses of many cameras which have evolved over time to be better at capturing light. The first act of my narrative be will be to show the audience a light source but this light source has to be as raw as possible like fire, the reason for this is to subtly hint to the audience by the end of the narrative that light doesn’t need to evolve or change, even in it’s rawest form we still strive to keep up with it and constantly evolve technology which works around and because of light, no matter how advance we get as a race the complex existence of light will never be outsourced and always drive us forward. The first couple of sequences in this act will then lead into the camera lenses and view finders, firstly showing the viewer the piece of technology which is capturing this raw light source and try to create a sense of travel through the cameras lenses. I want the viewfinders to be filled with the next camera and so on and so forth; this is to help me create a narrative between the cameras and show one beam of light travelling through the ages of cameras. I’d like to create a sense that the viewer could act as the beam of light and go on a journey through the technology of capturing light; the middle body and bulk of the sequence will be the act of travelling through the lenses, once the light has been shown it will disappear within a frame which is within a frame which is within a frame etc. Like when we are stood with one mirror in front of us and one mirror behind and the reflection repeats for as long as we can see. A heavily influenced concept idea I have from Duane Michals, the power of perception and playing on what’s within a frame. The final act will be showing how the beam of light travels through the different cameras (ranging from a brownie camera all the way up to modern SLR) and how it will then end up back at the brownie camera and then finally the image of the raw light source, this being the statement that we still use such a raw source of light as inspiration to keep building forward but to also bring attention that this entire sequence can act as a calendar for our technology.

For as long as our technology gets better with capturing light the more cameras can be added to the body of this sequence and help to create a narrative calendar of our history of cameras and capturing light.


Ok, so after speaking out about my ideas through this synopsis I had some valuable feedback, this is definitely the idea to follow through with to use as a final piece, there is a lot of material within this idea and I need to utilize as much of it as I can. There elements of technology, the gained ability to capture light, the involvement of light and how important it really is, the statement that we now have access to photographic practices in relation to the cameras. Also the act of a journey and calendar which can develop over time; using the powers of perception to create a circular narrative.

Initial Ideas, Concepts and Tests

So we were given a key word to base our narrative on, my key word is ‘Light’. Light is a vast part of photography, as photography is capturing light and the element has been in practice since the beginning of the art. The more I thought about my key word the more I struggled, although light is a big theme to work with it kind of flooded my mind with to many thoughts and ideas, I couldn’t see through the clouds. However I got myself together and thought about the simplest way of portraying light in a series of photographs, I could use times of day, create a circular narrative about somebodies day, I could use props like house lights and switches to create a narrative within a building; or using flames in some way. All these ideas I need to run through and test in some way.

Start with some basic observations about light –

  • It creates and sustains life

  • A constant property

  • Has many spectrums

  • Travels in straight lines

  • Creates Atmosphere

  • It easily makes us feel calm and comfortable or scared and out of place*

  • The biggest element within photography*

  • It takes along time to master the art of light

  • Can project colour

  • Reflects on mirrors

  • Objects which project light, Lamps, bulbs, signs, torch etc

So what kind of narratives can I explore when using light? I need to look at the potential light has in creating atmosphere  within images, but also I want to look at our everyday lives and how light becomes a important factor. For example light keeps people calm, creates warmth and feeds us however it could also make us nervous, feel out of place and scared. So there is a lot of potential in my key word when it comes to human conditions and that has a strong base to create a narrative. The question is how am I going to do it? What themes can I use? How? and why?

The first thing for me to do is to simply capture some images involving light, the more items or environments I test shoot in the more ideas that I will gather to create a narrative, I hope that these tests will spark some inspiration. I want to see what objects I can use at hand, as I’m not to sure what I want to create I’m just going to play around.

Light Around John Rylands    

These are some shots from a trip to John Rylands library, I’m not thinking about using this building within my narrative but I remember taking these primarily because of the lighting.

Rylands-light2 (3 of 3)

Rylands-light2 (1 of 3) Rylands-light (5 of 5) Rylands-light (4 of 5)

 Rylands-light (2 of 5) Rylands-light (1 of 5)

Rylands-light (3 of 5)

I really like using the darkness to create a atmosphere, I believe that the dark has just as much power and importance as the visible light; the dark brings more attention to the light and really helps to highlight the points of focus.

Around My Flat

test one

These four images are watching strong sunlight shine through my front room window, I wanted to create movement through the series just to test some physicality and distance from a object/scene in a proportioned manner. I could use type natural light in a building to create narrative but I’m not sure how or why yet.  After all this is a test just to get my creative juices flowing.

test two

I like the idea of using fire with in a narrative, this source of natural light can be very effective and has a lot of content to research and explore. I wanted to make a simple sequence of flicking a lighter on and off.

switch (4 of 4) switch (3 of 4) switch (2 of 4) switch (1 of 4)

Rather than a sequence I took four separate images of a light switch, once again I feel that there is potential in using light switches because it could open up any number of narratives within a building giving me complete freedom to branch out and create a story. Depending on the story depends  on the angle of the image, I would have to have to know the atmosphere of my narrative to understand which angle to use.

lamp tests (4 of 4) lamp tests (3 of 4) lamp tests (2 of 4) lamp tests (1 of 4)

The potential of a lamp is exactly the same as using a switch, however I would prefer to use a lamp within a narrative just because of its physical presence. I could use a lamp to create a narrative within a dark house, for example someone waking up very late at night from hearing a noise in their house, switching on and off the lights to check it out?

Brownie (2 of 2) Brownie (1 of 2)

I have many cameras lying around my flat and just picked one to photograph the light hitting it, I then started to angle the brownie camera to see the sun light bouncing into the mirrors inside the camera. I really like the idea of following a light trial, or using light to jump into lens’ and cameras. I then thought maybe I could join the light beam with other cameras, create a trial or narrative of light going through many cameras, this is a little hard to imagine right now but it’s something I want to try. This could create some interesting effects and could give me creative freedom to make something interesting in a way Duane Michals’ work is.

camera jumping

These three images above are what gave me some on the spot inspiration to create a sequence of light travelling through camera lenses, I feel I need to experiment in different ways, try to build different narratives and hopefully come to a final concept. So here I had the idea of following a trial of light through specific cameras which are from different periods in time. I want to take a Duane Michals approach to this sequence where I can play with the viewers perception of what they are seeing and hopefully create a circular narrative.  As cameras need light to operate I want to try and make a statement about the importance of light. Time and technology moves and I like the idea of travelling through the lenses of period cameras with one main light source. I obviously need to work on these ideas and refine the edges but I want to bring attention to the way we use and capture light and how we evolve technology to do so. Although light has always been here (obviously) our ways of capturing it have changed over time. I want each view finder of the cameras to hold the previous camera inside it, although I have trouble explaining in words I think the best way for me to show this is to draw and start taking photographs.


Story boarding is the best way for me to get my head around something.


Frame 1: Brownie camera on desk

Frame 2: Close up of twin lens reflex with brownie inside view finder.

Frame 3: Full shot of twin lens holding brownie.

Frame 4: Close up of 35mm view finder holding twin lens with brownie inside.

Frame 5: Full shot of 35mm camera containing twin lens and brownie.

Frame 6: Close up of brownie cameras view finder holding the 35mm film which is holding the twin lens, which is holding the brownie.

Frame 7: See Frame 1

Now I have a idea of what I want to achieve fright now the best thing for me to do is take some sample photographs and have a go!

IMG_0319 IMG_0321 IMG_0322 IMG_0323 IMG_0325

The images above are my test shots for this experiment, only simple images, no real effort went into capturing them because this is only a experiment. I followed my story board in terms of composition and went into Photoshop to create a circular narrative and edit my cameras into each others view finders.


For each frame I did a simple layer of the cameras into each view finder in the order which I decided and then turned the images into black and white so that I could bring more attention to the view finders. I needed to remember that this is a exercise and to help me grow an idea and narrative so not to much time was taken in creating this sequence.

test sequence, trial

As a trial I think this worked rather well, in terms of a circular narrative or series it definitely starts back where it began, I used Michals technique of showing frames within frames and exploiting them but I don’t know how much of a narrative I can put into this work. I will need to speak with a tutor and go over things. I was thinking of involving more of a set with a figure holding a lighter to a camera lens and that being the first and last image in tern involving a source of light that is rare and never changes.

Definitely a good little exercise to get some creative juices flowing but I need to think of:






I think that I need feedback for this idea so will return to it when it have spoken to my tutors and other students.

I have also been thinking of creating a narrative within my home, I like the idea of using light as a comforting element but also a un-easing one; from looking at Crewdson’s work I could take some of his lighting effects into my narrative to create an atmosphere. I think with lighting in the right places you can make an ordinary scene into something much more diverse and abstract, giving the creator a freedom to convey an atmosphere.

I’m going to take some test shots around my flat, I’m going to find areas which are being effected by light the most and maybe put some small edits together. I want to create a dark and eerie feel to my images because if I was to create a narrative within my home that’s what I would be looking to achieve. I would also strongly think about converting to black and white, in my head I imagine black and white images when I think of light, not strictly but it’s a prominent thought. I like the way black and white conveys like, the images have no distractions away from light and the grey scale adds to the shadows and highlights.

IMG_0342 IMG_0338 IMG_0336 IMG_0330

Well I chose my hall and stairway to take 4 images of using different angles to make some edits. The lighting to the house was quite dull and there were many corners of shadow, this was perfect for now. I thought about getting low down and looking up to get a sense of space between the stairs and the hall, thought about walking around in a strange dark house and hesitating about going up stairs. What I needed to do with these images was to edit them, convert them to black and white while enhancing the shadows, exposing more highlights and helping to add to a strange and maybe intimidating place.

Myflat (1 of 4) Myflat (3 of 4)

I like this image above and to the right because of the angle at eye level, it’s like peering up the dark staircase to see what’s at the top but the darkness is covering it, I brought out more highlights on the banister rail to add more value to the shadows and create a larger tonal range.

 Myflat (4 of 4)Myflat1 (1 of 1)

The more I think about it the more I would like to create a narrative within my flat, I could use my studio lights to convey a strange environment or occurrence within the building. I would like actors within my narrative so that is something I need to think about. Once again I would like feedback.

My Presentation of initial Ideas and concepts

Circular narrative Daniel Hancox  – PDF of my presentation.


The feedback I had on my presentation was highly valuable, I did think I had some good initial first ideas and concepts and the tests that I have been undertaking have definitely made the process a lot easier. It seemed that my idea of using light travelling through the lenses of cameras had more substance than I thought, the more I have mulled over it the more gravity I feel I can add, the thing that was recognised about this idea was that its a statement. This is because of the way I’m using light and cameras; I’m showing how light is a perpetual substance which hasn’t changed over the course of time however our ways of capturing it have changed, I want to take the viewer through a journey which shows us the change in technology and how light in its rawest form still drives us as a race to advance. But in doing so, I want to show it in a abstract way which takes the viewer through cameras as if they are the beam of light; using my research of Duane Michals to help me through a process of creating a circular narrative playing with the viewers perception. Another element of this proposal that I have been thinking about is that the images between the first and the last could go on and be added to the circular narrative for as the technology advances, cameras could be added to it over time and this could act as a calendar and narrative of the progression of cameras, once again using a raw source of light like fire.

But my presentation feedback didn’t rule out my other proposal idea of using my flat as a set and using light to create a eerie atmosphere, the fact that I want to use the darkness as my allies was a celebrated thought and could lead me into having research and substance for both light and dark. So my group helped me decided that it was a good idea to try out both proposals and see which becomes the most prominent.

Lets Get Started

This entire project will be a new learning curve for me, I have to create and understand visual narratives within photography, I have always thought about these elements through studying Media and Film however being able to put them into practice in the practice of photography is harder than initially thought. I find creating a narrative easier over a series of images, but what I really want to understand and become aware of is the visual narratives in singular images. It takes much more planning, thought and placement to create a narrative in a single image but the results can be amazingly powerful.

Before I even start thinking about creating my own narrative I have to research key photographers and artist which are masters in creating narrative within film and photography. With photography certain practitioners are so good at creating narrative which sits in time but can hold and flow a narrative like a 90 minute full feature film. Obviously this takes a lot of time, effort, money and skill.

The first bits of notes and research I want to take are simply about the different styles of narrative, how each one differs from the other and how they can have such a dynamic effect on the audience/viewer.

The first narrative structures I’ll look at are Linear and Non-linear narratives.

SO!!! Linear Narratives.

The easiest way for me to describe a linear narrative structure is to imagine a straight line, the straight line representing the narrative. For example, a linear structure would be a day to day documentary of somebodies life as it happens; a story which stays in the confines of time going forward or starting back to work forward, there are no jumps back and forth in time and this shows a narrative as it happens/happened from point A to point B. Starting at the beginning, working through the middle and coming finally to a conclusive end;  showing every detail through chronological order.

Non-Linear Narratives.

Non-linear narratives are the opposite of Linear narratives, these narratives can jump between any points of time, twisting the stories and creating dimension between important points of a narrative. For example the viewer could witness the end of a story before they see the beginning; scenes can jump in different time zones and create a complex narrative system for the viewer to follow.  There are many examples in film which can be studied and understood as non-linear narratives. A director famous for using non-linear narrative structures (as well as circular narratives) is Quentin Tarantino. Although non-linear narratives require much more engagement from the audience I feel that they have much more power and resemble the way that the human mind works more than linear structures.

In the 1990’s Quentin Tarantino created a huge rise in the use of non-linear narratives, his stories are complex, engaging and simply classic. He knows the industry, practitioners and structures incredibly well and this is why he can create such diverse narratives which create a truly unique and engaging experience. Personally I love his work and think that he is one of a kind director.

The first two films which Tarantino created which defined his use of non-linear narratives were the pictures ‘Reservoir Dogs’ & ‘Pulp Fiction’. Both of these films became cult classics and have been intensely studied since they have been made and thats no surprise and they are pure genius in my eyes.

Pulp Fiction reservoir-dogs-1992-dutch-r2-front-cover-65478

This clip from Jon Stewart’s chat show in America, shot in 1994 just after ‘Pulp Fiction’ was created, shows just how enthusiastic Tarantino is about his approach to making film and narratives. He takes everyday life, conversations and common actions in the lives of Hit-men, drug dealers and  gangsters who all carry their own unique narratives; ‘Pulp Fiction’ contains three main story lines which interweave as separate narratives to then come together to create a complex and suspenseful ending.

Later Tarantino gets asked if he could star in a film by any director who would it be? A truly challenging question for Tarantino but finally says “Sergio Leone” who directed such films as ‘The Good The Bad And The Ugly’; ‘A Fist Full Of Dollars’ and ‘Once Upon a Time In America’ which follows the non-linear narrative structure. It’s passion for his practice and peers that show through in Tarantino’s work, after all everything has been done some way or another and being able to notice that, work on it and understand it  then can you truly create something original.

I definitely understand the differences in Linear and non-linear narratives however I feel that achieving non-linear within photography is a long way from me yet, if it’s possible in the first place? This is definitely something I have to research more within my practice.

Circular Narratives

This type of narrative structure is the structure I should concentrate on most within this project, I have to create a series of images which work in this structure. In the simplest form a circular narrative means the story/plot will end at the point it began. So the first frame/frames will also be the last, the narrative will show the path up to the first and last frame. I have always been a fan of this structure within film making, I enjoy to watch a story unfold, to reveal the narratives building up to the climax; this gives a great sense of creativity and gets the audiences involved in the narrative.


Duane Michals

“Duane Michals has spent his career pushing against the confines of the single image”

Duane Michals is an American photographer who has a truly brilliant imagination when it comes to creating narratives through his photographs, his unique sequences challenge photography and the perceptions which people have with photography, also he makes an example of peoples ability to read an image or frame with some truly original outcomes. The first time I saw Duane Michals’ work I had never seen photography like this before, it’s so clever, refreshing, conceptual and often very abstract that I was taken in straight away. I think most photographers and artists would celebrate his work because it contains rich narratives, great framing/ composition and a real expressive way of making the viewer see the unexpected.

Michals is known for telling stories through his photographs and later on in his career even wrote on his prints to solidify the narratives he was telling, also his work told stories about more sensitive or less explored areas in photography and society throughout the 1960’s and 70’s.–the-talking-picture-show-andrew-palmer-reviews-the-retrospective-of-the-work-of-duane-michals-at-the-royal-photographic-society-in-bath-1551621.html

“As a photographer, I’ve worked against the natural constraints of the medium,” says Michals. “What I dislike about photography is that it just reports the facts. It describes.”

That statement Michals makes is very evident in his work to me, he is pushing what he and others know and trying to push photography so that there are deeper layers within a photo, not just seeing the obvious but being able to read and analyse.


This screen shot above is a article i was reading on the move, I like to read on the trains and public transport, I often find some of my best research doing this. So, the things that interest me in the article about is how acclaimed Duane Michals is, he has extensive rewards for his work. But the best part for me is the way he has gathered these awards using a ‘anti-traditional’ approach, he doesn’t believe in reality either, he feels that we cannot capture something thats really. I think its this rebellious attitude towards the rules and confines within the practice have been the catalyst for his abstract and intriguing work.  This was a really interesting read.

The work below are from Duane Michals’ book called ‘Sequences’ published in 1970.

Item One


Item one: The sequence above is typical of Michals, part of the reason why I think Michals work is so successful is because the images are modestly simple and that simplicity makes us view the frame as something we recognise. For example, in the first frame the glasses seem very large because the framing of the chair seems conventional in composition and that’s how ‘we’ recognise a chair. Then in the second frame we realise that the chair is actually small and the glasses are normal size, this is the first ‘trick’ (if you could call it a trick) that Michals plays.  The use of mirrors in his work are well orchestrated and planned in such a way that they become a tool for him to bounce between frames giving him the opportunity to carry on the narrative.  I think Michals’ work is enticing and I get a urge to emulate his style.

Item Two


Item Two: This sequence is nothing short of genius!! It’s amazing that Michals saw this in his mind, to create something so original and powerful that it genuinely makes you question what a photograph could mean OR where a photograph can be taken to convey a different environment. Nothing is as it seems. I think this is the most powerful circular narrative sequence in photography (that I have seen of course) and also think that this sequence possibly created a template for many years of emulation and self experiments by other photographers and artists. The composition of each frame blends into the next creating a flowing narrative which actually creates a real response in the viewer, in a way Michals’ work is like a mind game, I felt like my perception was being tricked and this was Michals intention. He is one step ahead of us and stating that we should open our minds to what is around the frame not just what fills the frame. He strengthens this trick of perception with the audiences by adding a title text at the top stating “Things Are Queer”.

Item Three


This image doesn’t contain a circular narrative but does have relationships with the concept, this sequence makes me question the relationship between these two men. Do they know each other? Are they following each other? intimidate each other? or is it as simple as they know each other but haven’t spoke or seen in years? many questions like this run through my mind. The last frame indicates to me that the glance of the two men is much stronger than a simple tilt of the head to check the other guy out, but he stands sideways in the alley, the last shot with only one character involved creates a lasting narrative that could indicate much more than just a glance. The way that this sequence is layed out is against our conventional western way of reading, we would expect a sequence to go from left to right however this sequence goes down left then down right and this is the first thing that hit me from following the sequence.

Duane Michals really does know his practice creating these sequences, they are little story boards which show us a glimpse into somebody else’s life; or to play with a viewers perception on what is actually in the frame while surrounding it in narrative.

I need to return to Michals throughout this project and try to understand his methods and thought processes to get a better outcome in my own work.


Watching these videos you really get a sense on Duane’s personality and the man behind the images, really interesting man who is very opinionated!!!!! The first link is a hour and twenty minute lecture by Michals and is more like a stand up comedy show, he has great mannerisms and views on the world which he is not afraid of addressing. I like his rather aggresive view on the practice of photography, he doesn’t believe it to be something taken literally and should not try and present reality but try to portray the emotions of the subjects creating a fantasy reality (The Boogie Man)


Tableau Vivant 

Tableau Vivant, deriving from the French language means ‘Living Picture’. Creating Images in this style takes a lot of preparation, a great deal of research and understanding or your subjects aesthetic, history and cultures. There are a number of key photographers who lie within this field of photography and some of the results are outstanding. To create a Tableau Vivant style image can take along time, there is a lot of elements to take into account and I think the easiest way of understanding this technique is to see it for yourself. So I’m going to research a couple of main photographers who specialize in this practice.

Gregory Crewdson


I see more of a director than photographer in Gregory Crewdson, his images are so orchestrated down to every single fine detail that they could be planned a year before and run on huge budgets that can hold up against the film industry. Crewdson’s work is a little to planned and choreographed for my personal work however I do respect the amount of quality, skill and absolute dedication that goes into his images. Crewdson is an absolute master of lighting and this is something I really need to analyse, although he probably doesn’t set the lights up physically or even pull the trigger he dictates where every tiny detail and shade of light will be within his images. His narratives have a dark and under-toning message within them, the work I will be looking at comes from his book  published in 2007 called ‘Beneath The Roses’

Gregory Crewdson:I never know what to call the subjects in my pictures because I’m uncomfortable with the word actor. I think maybe subjects might be more accurate—or maybe even more accurate is objects.

(Laughs) I’m just kidding. But what’s important to me is that there’s a necessary alienation between me and the subject. I don’t want to know them well. I don’t want to have any intimate contact with them. For all the talk of my pictures being narratives or that they’re about storytelling, there’s really very little actually happening in the pictures. One of the few things I always tell people in my pictures is that I want less—give me something less.

Since a photograph is frozen and mute, since there is no before and after, I don’t want there to be a conscious awareness of any kind of literal narrative. And that’s why I really try not to pump up motivation or plot or anything like that. I want to privilege the moment.

That way, the viewer is more likely to project their own narrative onto the picture. 

The statement Crewdson makes above (The American Reader) I find really interesting, the way he doesn’t want to convey a strong and immediate narrative in any of his images is very strange at first. However the more I thought about the more sense it actually makes, he is leaving the narration up to the viewer which is a powerful and impressive element to capture. His images are so full of substance that its hard not to imagine a narrative within them but I suppose that is his real talent coming through. Creating a canvas for the viewer’s imagination.


Firstly look at the title before any images, what does that say to me? Beneath the roses….. well we expect roses to be a beautiful flower which stands for love, affection, life, richness and beauty. But what’s beneath these beautiful flowers is not often a beautiful substance; roses flourish off dirt, decomposing materials and most of all feces. So is this title is bringing to light the under-toning narratives behind something beautiful? The ways of our lives perhaps? We may live in a society which portrays itself as a rosey and vibrant way to live, but what is beneath this? Is it all spawned from dirt and feces so that whatever that grows out of it is not truly beautiful or meaningful but has more of a deceiving and darker existence? Gregory Crewdson’s work definitely has this dark and sinister aesthetic to it, a ‘Tibleau Vivant’ style which creates a whole narrative of a full feature film within one frame. I have to understand the importance of his images, understand the way they are made and dedication it takes to create such pieces of work.

Item One


Item One: First of all I want to look at the over all theme Crewdson has in this series of images; they all show mysterious narratives within the lives of random people/characters in a singular, powerful and static image. All the images are taken in small towns and suburbs of America and I think this is to create a relationship to the viewer, after all we recognise scenes like this from our own lives and ordinary environments. The image above is of a typical house in America, all the stereotypical actions are happening; we have the husband/father on a arm chair in the middle of the room, the wife in the kitchen washing up the dishes but when I look closer and try to read a narrative within the image the more dark and sinister material comes out. First of all the lighting gives us a strong atmosphere, the kitchen is well lit as we can see the colours of the kitchen units, vibrant spots of colour on the work tops and even the colour of the woman’s clothes and skin is much more vibrant in the image however the foreground is dull in colour, a slight hazy effect with no natural light that screams depression. The big narrative that shouts out to me in this image is the portrayal of illness and decease, the gentlemen sat in his arm chair slumped firmly in his dressing gown with everything he needs to hand. We see the tone of the man’s skin is pale and lifeless, his face droops with a static stare at the television. He has bottles of tablets next to him to release his pain/illness as well as a radio, magazines and television remote giving me the impression that this man doesn’t move unless he has to. He even sleeps of the sofa where we can see the pillows stacked for his head and a blanket crumpled up along the sofa, or it’s a place of rest when his illness is at it’s worst. The lighting is so well orchestrated and planned that each third of the image has it’s own unique set of lighting; we have the dark areas around the sofa and food tray, the grey and grim lighting giving us a clue to the man’s health and life style and the brighter (but still sinister) kitchen where a wife finds solace from her commitments. A everyday scene with a serious and dark undertone which gives the viewer a narrative about the existence of these two people.

Item Two


Item Two:    –  Brief Encounters

The image above has a dramatic a very sinister undertone, there is something very uneasy for me with this image and I believe that this is definitely intentional. This is a prime example of how good Duane Michals is at controlling light and using it to portray a intense atmosphere. The little girl is the brightest subject in the room however she is still under a light which is eerie and very flat in colour, she is very uneasy character who portrays something very dark and cruel in my eyes. Its almost as if terrible things have happened to these people and the little girl is either looking for answers of the woman lying down but the woman refuses to answer, lying with her back facing the girl with her eyes wide open. Or that his little girl has experiences with something paranormal, the open eyed woman knows this but is scared to confront. Duane Michals narrative pursuits are meant for the viewer to create, he constructs detailed and methodical images which strike thoughts within our brains and almost force us to create a narrative within the frame, I believe when we are presented with images which contain such dramatic content we cannot help not to put a narrative within the image.