“Questions for the Seller” – Nicky Bird

Nickybird.com. (2020). Question for Seller – Nicky Bird. [online] Available at: http://nickybird.com/projects/question-for-seller/ [Accessed 6 Jan. 2020].

This was an interesting project, whereby Bird bought images from the internet. Mostly old family portraits, which had not sold or were going really cheaply. She asked all of the sellers the question ” How did you come across the photos and what, if anything, do you know about them?”

She then displayed them in a exhibition and resold them via auction. Some were sold at a much greater price than that paid. 


Question for Seller re-situates images in a different context and in so doing allows for a new dialogue to take place. Reflect on the following in your learning log: •

  • Does their presence on a gallery wall give these images an elevated status?
  • Where does their meaning derive from?
  • When they are sold (again on eBay, via auction direct from the gallery) is their value increased by the fact that they’re now ‘art’?

Does their presence on a gallery wall give these images an elevated status?

I feel that their presence on the gallery wall doesn’t necessarily elevate them to art, but to exposure and re-interest. The fact that someone has taken the trouble to collect them and display them gives them an interest. It may also be because of the age of some of them, people enjoyed the social history aspect of the images.

Where does their meaning derive from?

I think their mean comes from being rediscovered. Human nature likes to uncover things that are lost or solve puzzles. There’s a mystery about them

When they are sold (again on eBay, via auction direct from the gallery) is their value increased by the fact that they’re now ‘art’?

This is an interesting question. I believe that there increased value is a result of them having been part of something bigger. By bringing them together and displaying them, Nicky Bird has added value to their meaning. It’s like the poppy display at the Tower of London in 2014. Each of the poppies was sold off afterwards. I bought one. It’s been in it’s box in a cupboard ever since, but I own a piece of the story was part of and that makes me feel good.

Cindy Sherman

This is an interesting artist, Cindy Sherman is an American photographer / artist who uses herself as a model to take images that replicate poses and situations of women in films.

My initial thought was it reminded me of John Berger’s Ways of Seeing, in the message she is trying to get across. She is commenting on how women are portrayed in the media and in films. However, in reading some of her interviews, I wonder if her response is more personal. She states her mother was older and she looked to media and films for role models in her formative years, perhaps this is how she realised that their portrayal is often not reality and felt the need to comment on it.



Who was your role model growing up?

To a certain extent, it was just women I’d see in the media, actresses in movies, mums on TV, women in magazines or the Sears, Roebuck catalogue. My mother was too, I suppose, but she was an older mum when she had me, so I think I really looked to the younger women in the media.

Tate. (2019). Getting to know Cindy Sherman – Interview | Tate. [online] Available at: https://www.tate.org.uk/art/artists/cindy-sherman-1938/getting-know-cindy-sherman [Accessed 27 Dec. 2019].

This extract from the ‘Getting to Know Cindy Sherman’ interview seems to contradict her work in some ways. If these women were indeed her role models, why does she now wish to highlight their depiction as vulnerable and fake. Did they not live up to her expectations? Did they in some way let her down?

The context of images is not immediately apparent without reading the narrative that goes along with them. For me the parodying of images that she also considered to be fake, just accentuating the fakeness of them, which I suppose is what she’s trying to do, still does not show the reality. for me showing women as they really are, juxtaposed to these images could be powerful. Is she scared of the real her?

Gregory Crewdson

accessed 30.10.2019

Research point

Look up the work of Gregory Crewdson online.
Watch this YouTube video about Gregory Crewdson and his work and consider the
questions below.

www.youtube.com/watch?v=S7CvoTtus34&feature=youtu.be [accessed 24/02/14]

  • Do you think there is more to this work than aesthetic beauty?
  • Do you think Crewdson succeeds in making his work ‘psychological’? What does this mean?
  • What is your main goal when making pictures? Do you think there’s anything wrong with making beauty your main goal? Why or why not?

Crewdson’s work is deliberately cinematic in style and as a result is often very popular in
commercial settings. The dark nights, the heavy lights and the perfectly styled locations
and actors aren’t meant to fool us into believing those moments are real, but rather they
seduce us into entering the world of fiction. This visual strategy of elaborate direction,
as in film, makes us lose our sense of reality and become absorbed with the alternative
reality we’re faced with. Some commentators regard this is an effective method of
image-making, but for others it lacks the subtlety and nuance of Wall and DiCorcia’s
work. What do you think?

A lot of Crewdson’s images are created a twilight, which he says he has always had a fascination of that time of day. It seems that it kind of represents the subject matter too. His images are on the cusp of reality and surrealism, I think that’s what makes a them ‘psychological’. We know that what we looking at isn’t real, but it’s close enough for us to question it. The half light also adds to that eerie feeling.

I don’t think there is anything wrong with making your main goal about beauty if that’s what you want. My tutor said to me after one of my assignments, that I should consider how I want to display my work as part of the planning. So if your goal is to make a piece of art that decorates a room, then mere beauty may be all you need. Besides not all real life is dark and miserable, it’s good to depict the beautiful things around us, why can’t an image be both ‘real’ and beautiful. I personally don’t find Crewdson’s images ‘beautiful’, but I do like the surrealism of them and it’s something I often create in my own images, by adding things that aren’t really there:

Assignment 3 – Shoes – Tutor Feedback and Reflection

Notes from tutorial with my tutor

This set presented me with quite a challenge and having made a conscious decision to try and get away from the ‘stock’ type of images I created in Assignment 2, I was actually worried, Les would thing they were a bit boring. (or maybe that was just because they were about me!)  

I was pleased that he thought they work as a set and were held together by the concept as well as the colour tones and light.  This is something I had thought about so was glad it was noticed.  I must remember to include these decisions in my write up of the assignments.

One thing that intrigued me, was that Les said that my photos actually gave viewers more of an insight into my spaces than they would ordinarily see.  However, by placing the legs in the image it formed a barrier to them seeing it all.  I found this a very interesting point of view and I had seen them as a lead into my life.  So the fact that he saw them as a barrier gave me pause for thought around how much I allow people into my life.

The other point that made me think was the point that I had obviously set up and posed the images in order to take them of myself.  However, as a viewer we accept them as a ‘real’ captures of my life.  I think that’s what his comment about smartphone images refers to in his feedback.  I had wanted to create a more ‘real’ type of image in this set as opposed to the last assignment, so I am satisfied that I achieved this. 

Les suggested I look up a photographer call Leah Schrager, as he felt that the image with me looking at the screen reminded him of her work. 


Infinity Selfie - Leah Schrager

In her series 'Infinity Selfie'; Schrager is places a picture within a picture which is reminiscent of my picture on the screen of the computer. In my case this was a happy accident, as I had been checking my first attempt at the image when I took that image. I didn't notice the screen until after I'd taken the picture. This is a learning point for me for Assignment 4 & 5 and remembering that everything in an image can have a meaning and impact for the viewer.

We discussed the image with the red boots and agreed that it didn’t need to text, so I have removed it and uploaded it to my Instagram feed. This has changed the order of the images, so I wondered if this will change the impact of the set?  Actually I think it works better with the placement of the boots as the first picture and the blue shoes in the last image it looks like bookends for the set.

orignal post
updated post

we discussed assignments 4 & 5.  He suggested that I pick an image for A4 that might link to something I’m interested in that will lead into A5.  Therefore, I have read both assignments to get a sense of what I might need to do next.

All in all I am relatively pleased with the outcome of this assignment.

Francesca Woodman

“It is difficult not to read Woodman’s many self-portraits – she produced over five hundred during her short lifetime – as alluding to a troubled state of mind. She committed suicide at the age of twenty-two.” (Bright, 2010, p.25)

Francesca Woodman (1958–81) explored issues of gender representation and the use
of the female body in her work. Self-portraits dominate her substantial portfolio, often
portraying dark psychological states and disturbing scenes. She uses her body, locations and props to evoke a sense of surrealism, mystery and vulnerability. In Space2, for example, her body almost disappears into the blur of movement. This visual strategy recurs in her work and, since her death, has been interpreted as Woodman using photography both to present herself to the camera as an exhibitionist and to help herself disappear.

Look up Francesca Woodman’s images online. What evidence can you find for Bright’s

Google search for images by Francesca Woodman

I think that perhaps Bright is reading Woodman’s images with the hindsight of her subsequent death. I think it is natural for us all to explore our existence in time and space. Especially as in this instance she was possibly responding to an assignment brief, whilst studying at university. The title Space2, is actually Space squared.




as a human being we can move around and occupy different parts of a space, whilst the space itself can not move. I have tried this out myself using long exposure to put myself in the image but not in the image at the same time. Looking at the idea of only passing through time and leaving traces of oneself.

I like the smoky effect left by moving through the space. I was wearing a white top. In woodman’s images she was in an empty room. I liked the idea of being in and around my home.

Max Klinger – german surrealist painter,  Max Klinger (18 February 1857 – 5 July 1920) was a German symbolist painter, sculptor, printmaker, and writer. Klinger was born in Leipzig and studied in Karlsruhe. An admirer of the etchings of Menzel and Goya, he shortly became a skilled and imaginative engraver in his own right.

I have always enjoyed surrealism in my photography, I like the idea of adding symbolism as well.

Brooke Shaden –  https://brookeshaden.com/gallery/surrealist self portraits – this is a photographer whose work I have followed for a time. However, I find her quite dark, she follows themes of rebirth and feel a little like Woodman’s work. Personally, I prefer images that are more hopeful and uplifting.

Stephen Bull – Photography – review

Recommended by tutor to read P45, 67-70.

The first passages is in Chapter 3 – The meaning of Photographs:

Photography and Psychoanalysis: The unconscious, Fetishism and the Uncanny [P45]
This passage focuses on ‘mental context’ i.e. “the mind of the viewer as interpreter of photographs”. The author talks about this should be taken into account when creating photographs, but points out that this is very difficult as each person has different experiences.
Sigmund Freud, however argued that people share some common experienced, desires and anxieties, such as joy, fear, angler etc.  Thinking back to my Social Science course many years ago. I would say that this also depends greatly on the culture in which they were brought up.  Freud’s psychoanalysis central idea is that of the three states on consciousness, conscious, pre-conscious and unconscious.  In relation to the unconscious, Freud agued that people repress some desires and anxieties, mostly due to social constraints and feel that they should not be expressed, discussed or acted upon.
Relating this back to Assignment 2 and the point I think Les was making, is that the images I created from my mind in an attempt to photograph the unseen are in fact unconscious reactions to the stimuli.  I was aware of this but what I think is more interesting is the fact that the images were so like ‘stock photos’.  What does that say about what is in my subconscious?

The second passage is in Chapter 4 – Photography for Sale:

From Selling Products to creating atmospheres: advertising photography and image banks.
This section focuses on how our ideas of what is desireable has been shaped by advertising and the use of ‘stock’ images to portray ‘consumer happiness’. Christina Kotchemidova suggests that ‘the indexicality of the photograph’ helps create ‘ real fantasies’ and advertisers use this to consistently reinforce the message of what life should be like, that we subconsciously desire this, but as it bears no resemblance to our realities we repress them as unconscious desires.
Is this what I have created in my images? Certainly not consciously, but it does make me question them.  The fact that I have used substitutes for myself in the form of a wooden hand and not put myself in the images, even though I am trying to describe my feelings is telling me something, about myself.  

Image 7 is probably the most ‘stock’ image.  It certainly isn’t (or wasn’t) my reality as I in order to create this image, I bought all of the crockery new and the cereal which I don’t eat!  In my head this is what breakfast on a sunny morning should look like!  Actually I really love this image, because it fulfills my vision (perhaps this vision has been fed to me, by advertising I don’t know.  

Item 7 – Stan’s Object

I was given a bowl and was told the ‘object’ was within it. There were multiple objects, which were light, sticky and round. I ran it through my fingers many times and imagined a sunny morning breakfast.

My reflection is that in creating images I do need to make a decision about what I am trying to say, is it real fantasy or an attempt at honest portrayal of the facts, or indeed like my first assignment, somewhere in the middle?

Bull S., 2010, Photography, Rutledge, New York

Assignment 2 – Feedback and Reflection

. . a thoughtful submission that fulfills brief . . .

Read Tutor Feedback report here

The first thing to say is that I again had a FaceTime conversation with Les, my tutor which I have come to really enjoy and find it so enthusing to be able to discuss and debate my ideas. Far from finding it daunting and worrying about any criticism I have learned that the conversation is really stimulating my thoughts and leading me to research places and people, I wouldn’t have found on my own. I so wish I’d started out doing this, because actually having those discussions really does help improve my work.

I also made the notes this time and submitted them for Les to amend and add references about photographers and artists we’d talked about. I’ll mention them later.

I think I ended up with more questions than answers from this assignment, but I don’t think that is a bad thing, quite the contrary. In all aspects of this assignment, I have had to discuss my objectives with people. From those that gave me items, to my husband who helped manage the process and to showing the final images to my tutor and others. If feels like a real collaboration and really helped me engage fully with the brief.

I am conscious that I mustn’t reflect and reminisce too much as I still have quite a bit of the course to complete.

I have set myself a goal to research each of the photographers, authors and artists that Les and Moira mentioned during the conversation and reflect on their link to my work for the final submission. I won’t however, attempt incorporate their ideas into Assignment 2. In stead, I think it will show better progression in my work if I incorporate it into subsequent areas of the course.

Research items:


Moira Lovell’s area of research

Stephen Bull’s – Photography p45, 67-70

Karen Barad’s On- touching – The Inhuman That therefore I Am (v1.1)

Phillyda Barlow, working with the idea of denial of touch.

Gillian Wearing’s – masks

Eva Stenram – Drapes

Assignment 2 – Contextualise your work with historical and contemporary practitioners:

Notes made during researching for assignment 2

At the Edge of Sight: Photography and the Unseen – Shawn Michelle Smith


Walter Benjamin’s concept of the optical unconscious

Roland Barthes’s famous Winter Garden photograph



Having lost his mother, with whom he had lived most of his life, he goes looking for her among old photographs; time and again the face he finds is not quite hers, even if objectively she looks like herself. At last, he discovers her true likeness, the “air” that he remembers, in a picture of Henriette aged five, taken in a winter garden in 1898. (In the journal entry that recounts this discovery, Barthes simply notes: “Je pleure.”) In narrative terms, it’s an astonishing moment, comparable to the onrush of memories as madeleine meets teacup in Proust, or the scene in Citizen Kane when the maddened Kane first grasps the snow globe, emblem of all he has left behind. Barthes, however, is a temperamentally discreet narrator, so never shows us the photograph: “It exists only for me. For you, it would be nothing but an indifferent picture.”

“Camera Lucida is a short book, but with the winter garden photograph it begins all over again. Suddenly every photograph is for Barthes a memorial; the very essence of the medium is its spectral conjuring of death-in-life. Contemplating a portrait by Alexander Gardner of the condemned Lewis Payne – sentenced to death for the attempted murder of US Secretary of State WH Seward in 1865 – Barthes sees only this fearful temporal paradox: “He is dead and he is going to die.” And his book starts to sound weirdly premonitory: here is Barthes surrounded by his glum little icons, fantasising his own “total, undialectical death”.


Photography and Optical Unconcious – Shawn Michelle Smith and Sharon Sliwinski



In this article, I believe the author is saying that ‘optical unconcious’ is a viewer’s unconcious reaction to stimuli in an image that is unseen to them. Thereby, a shape or a colour or even the way someone smiles could trigger a reaction that other would not register, i.e. the unintended consequence of the image?

W. Eugene Smith – ‘Country Doctor’

W. Eugene Smith was an American photojournalist.

His work the ‘Country Doctor’ was a ‘fly on wall’ documentary of the day to day life and work of  a general practitioner named Dr. Ernest Ceriani.

Doctor Ceriani checks 4-year-old Jimmy Free’s foot, cut when the boy stepped on broken glass.

Smith’s images although documentary also capture the emotion of the scene by his composition and angles.  Taken in 1948, this is only a few years after being a war correspondent where he focused on taken images of the suffering of the people rather than the soldiers and battles.  He himself was injured and had to undergo a lot of surgery so it is perhaps these to events that led him to concentrate on the life of a doctor.

source: – Art Blart –  https://artblart.com/tag/dr-ernest-ceriani-following-the-loss-of-a-mother-and-child-during-childbirth/   [accessed 04.01.2019]