A 3: Preparation – auto-ethnography

A 3: Preparation of auto-ethnography

9th March

1. Summary of reflections

I have had quite a bit of feedback from Gary and attended quite a few meetings of peers and others looking at editing the work. The challenge is selection and sequencing. I will be videoing with Gary in 9 days time

I did not feel that my work was ‘good enough’ so it was helpful to have a very detailed response from Gary. I thought that my work was too ‘slight’ and lacked focus. A related issue was presenting the work – I sent too much so that it was difficult to see what it was. Paradoxically, that discontent with this work looking at psychological states made me experiment with some stage work which is on another tab.

1.1 My learning

  • Don’t make things too complicated – keep the theory and research to one side
  • It is all about the images and their relationship to each other – and explaining that decision making
  • The influences of Gary and Sultan and Goldberg, particularly as an approach to practice, are very important and need to hold them loosely rather than lots of other research which I need in time
  • I am going to look at my archive to see what other images will change the series. Initially I created ‘cosmetic’ images for A1 but am moving now to include more political or negative images.
  • Gary organised my images in a different way and I am interested in why there are differences.
  • I think that I had lost my perspective about this work but the feedback has helped a great deal – there is something honest and worthwhile here
  • I seem to be moving away from a presentation that is multisite or linear to something more open – not sure where that will take me.

2. Investigating my archive

I have been taking images on my iPhone and with my Nikon DSLR since before lockdown. I uploaded my blog roll to Lightroom and decided to look afresh at what was there.

There are over 1,000 images, mainly screen-saves, including funny videos about Covid from friends or the internet. I reviewed and edited them down to 143. I was looking for images that could complement what was already in the series or add a new dimension.

My analysis of these were that they showed

  • Concerns about PPE in my practice
  • Concern about the weakness of politicians to address the situation early
  • Images about helping people to die of covid
  • Other images that signified things that I wanted to say – such as the tree stumped growth
  • Taking blood outside – I think that I need to show things from my life as a doctor in response to covid – unique things as it will look just like anyone else
  • Images of vaccination

I brought the 143 to 28 – here are the annotated contacts

I have sent these to the printer so that I can put them up on a new board to consider. I have however a temporary selection which is here, but that may not last. It is back to Coldberg and trying to be dispassionate about what is there.

3. Video meeting with Gary

18th March

Thinking about Level 3. 

Feedback from my tutor

How are you integrating reflections on your practice work with Contextual Studies ?

I think that both are about doctor identity. The essay looks at the formation and representation of doctors and issues of power and ideology. The BOW is about my identity as a doctor working during the pandemic and challenges representations of doctors in visual culture

Can you send a number of different selections/ edits which concentrate on certain subjects or approaches?

That is a good question. I think that has been in the back of my mind for some time. I could be presenting only text messages, issues about death, or absence, or the new face of GP land now for example.

Continue making the staged/concept work alongside the recording vernacular snapshots. 

This psychological constructed  expression v ‘window on the world’ could combine or later choose which of the two is strongest for a book/exhibition. 

Happy to work with both at the moment. 

Might want to answer these questions (page 51 of Course document)

  • Is the work taking on a direction of its own? Are you ready to go with it?
  • I think it has always been about me – and looking to express my thoughts and feelings – searching for ways to do this.
  • Is the strategy you are currently developing the kind which is most suitable for the work? 
  • I think that it needs more thinking and experimentation
  • Are you resisting a certain direction due to effort, a closed mind or another reason? 
  • I think I have been resisting exploring themes and going with them e.g.political 
  • Are there any lessons in the material from this section that could be useful for where you currently are in your work?
  •  Yes – go with the images not the history or memory
  • How has chance intervened in your work to date and how might you allow for it a bit more?
  •  That is coming up soon

Let the defining characteristics of photography is chance. See the ‘threshold concepts’: 


Chance Dada – letting go and allowing images to combine to give you ideas to make new images as well as beginning to sequence them using form. 


Thomas Demand: https://www.moma.org/calendar/exhibitions/116

WHAT IS CONCEPTUAL PHOTOGRAPHY? Some useful video interviews here: https://www.source.ie/feature/what_is_conceptual.php

Send two folders of images from each mini project jpegs (20-30 of each if you need) and we will start to create associations (try the dada thing first)

Then we can have a video tutorial to have a more in depth chat. 

4.Taking a chance – a MAJOR change in practice

6th April

4.1 Reflection

I have been really frustrated that I am not expressing what I feel about lockdown, which is what has led me to the ‘Staged work’ which is displaying the psychological consequences of lockdown. I think that that staged work will progress a lot in the the next week.

THREE things have happened in the last two weeks

  • I attended a Format21 meeting about ‘Lockdown photography’ with Historic England and others. The images were OK but seemed cliched within this new genre. It was not until I was sharing my own staged work with my peers and Derek Trillo that I realised that the images were apolitical. What was missing was anger that two delayed lockdowns had cost an extra 50,000 lives, that NHSE had knowingly discharged covid patients in to OPH, that poorly performing expensive private companies did the tracing when it should have been the ready infrastructure of public health – I could go on. I realised that I was ANGRY! And that anger has not abated and I have decided to show it!
  • I took Gary’s Advice about chance and re-read the OCA notes about this area. I took images I things that I found interesting or weird. One image stands out, which is a shattered flagstone on temporary hospital car park next to where my sister is a patient.
The feeling here is that the order and ‘perfection’ of life is shattered or disordered – if I step out of denial that has been my experience.
  • The third thing is that I had a heart attack three weeks ago. I knew I had disordered arteries and one of them had clogged up and it has been repaired. I am grateful to be alive. I don’t feel that my previous life has been shattered but my heart is broken in some way. I am still processing how that will affect me and my photographic work.
  • There is a fourth element here which is my staged work and associated reading about psychological responses to stress – current ideas as well as Freud, Jung and others. I was struck by how many pages were devoted in the Lazarus book to guilt and anger; it is clear they are primal feelings and I am starting to feel them about my own lockdown.

4.2 Some chance images

These contacts were taken at my home and on a journey to a hospital.

It is the shattered paving stone and the idea of deformed lives and death that stand out. With that idea I went to my image database to find images that expressed something of that and related ideas.
Many of these are about related shapes and forms and not content – Gary keeps reminding me about Coldberg’s ideas about ‘dispassionate’ sequencing, and I have tried to do that as I create a ‘Shattered’ sequence.
The sequencing ordering is

IMAGE 1-2: 1 prime shattered image next to broken dirty mugs
IMAGES 2-4: Dirty snow (in Japan), snowy car journey UK
IMAGES 5-7: Angular building ? right place, empty road, empty country bridge
IMAGES 8-11: Person distress, child obscured, blurred party dancing, blurred living room
IMAGES 12-14: PPE boxes ? works , cut repaired, gloves in a row
IMAGES 15-18: shadows, stunted trees, last tomato, decayed plants
IMAGE 19: Bars ? right
IMAGES 20-22: death ribbon, C19, chaos image
IMAGE 23: Black wall

I think this is now much more ordering by look at not history and perhaps ideas. I will wait to submit that to Gary.


I think that this idea needs a whole section to itself. I have already started to think and plan what I am going to do. This something that, at least initially, I will run with my feelings, rather than look at theory which would be my inclination.

5.1 Developing the idea

Very early on in my research I started looking at conceptual works, but a lot of work that I have done has conceptual ideas at their root.


I am going more with my feelings here is doing this work, but three things have influenced me

  • My research about anger as a response to change – that is the book my Lazarus.
  • My response to the ‘Historic England’ and Format21 images which avoid talking about grief and anger
  • My CS essay looks at power dynamics in the BBC Govt Covid briefings – they are structured so as to neutralise alternative narratives that stray into negative comments about how the pandemic has been handled – there’s not discussion about poor decisions and whether the death count could have been higher.

13th May 2021

5.2 Materials and settings

Here is the first image that I did ahead of most of this shooting. It is part of the ‘staged’ series in my consulting room.

Anger – for Staged room series

I had bought the table and computer on Gumtree to destroy using a sledgehammer. I put it on my Instagram feed with another 11 images – it was the second most commented on image suggesting I have tapped into a feeling that others identify with. It was very satisfying to do!

I decided to collect more old computers and phones to destroy. There are several options which developed while I had a heart attack and was in recovery from it.

  • A series showing the complete disintegration of a single computer
  • A series of different computer items being destroyed
  • Text on card to highlight the cause of the anger – such as ‘DID AND EXTRA 50,000 PEOPLE DIE BECAUSE OF TWO DELAYED LOCKDOWNS?’ The text cards could be in the same frame or separate.

I have also thought about getting other people to do all the smashing as a video – anyone who has something negative to say about covid. Maybe I should leave that to later? But it is a strong idea.

5.3 Shooting and reflections

I decided to experiment with photographing and smashing phones and computers on my drive on a dull day using a black background. The biggest difficulty was glare on the shiny black ground sheet. I am not sure what I think about the destruction and if I should take it further or assemble in a different way. But it is done for the moment.

Another option is to get NHS workers to smash objects to illustrate their anger – maybe.

5.4 Contacts

Contact 1 – smashing technology
Contacts 2: Text

5.5 Series

I think that I have the series as in the contacts.

I have agreed to send some preliminary images on the theme of chance to my tutor ahead of the A3 submission and will do that now.