A 4: From disappointment to innovative images

A 4: From disappointment to innovative images


There are several critical junctures in this module. One of these was getting ‘stuck’ with my autoethnographic series and taking a new direction to create conceptual works. There are several reasons for this which are related to a changed understanding of Covid photographic practice and the pandemic. The purpose of this post is to detail the reasons for this change.

There are two conceptual works in my BOW, staged room interiors, and still life assemblages about the pandemic. It is the latter work that I want to focus on as it exemplifies my approach to understanding and applying knowledge and research in this module. 

Framework for understanding.

  1. RESEARCH: Applying earlier research and investigating ‘new’ research to change my thinking and direction
  2. CRITICAL THINKING: Taking a new position about my approach to exploring the pandemic
  3. CREATIVITY: Supported by my tutor using a collaborative padlet. I developed an inventive and creative series of image that challenge institutional responses to the pandemic.

Map of framework

What follows is the reasoning for making and change in direction and the learning from this.

Details of understanding


1.1 EARLY RESEARCH (October 2020):

Early in this module, I had conducted extensive research about medical and photographic responses to Covid-19

Literature on institutional responses to Covid-19

Literature on individual responses to Covid-19

Doctor distress related to overwork and Covid-19

Some photographers standout such as Viktoria Sorochinski’s dream-like lockdown project reconnects with the inner-self, Bex Day explores the experience of OCD from isolation, and Antonia Giuliani’s iconic images of exhausted Italian doctors marked by face mask-wearing(About Viktoria Sorochinski. Webinar interview with Zoe Harrison., 2020; Zhang, 2020; Abel-Hirch, 2020; Giuliani, 2020).

I was less impressed by the collective images and my blog from October says “This was the polished rather than the dull side of the coin. There is scope to look at negative aspects of lockdown such as loss of identity, marginalization, anxiety, overworking, etc” (NPG, 2020b; a). 

1.2 NEW RESEARCH (March 2021)

My tutor and I had reached an impasse about my autoethnography; I was producing lots of image series in different settings, but they did not adequately describe my feelings about shielding and working from home in the pandemic. My tutor suggested experimenting with ‘chance’ and other concepts such as assemblage (Drucker, 2021; Tate, 2021; Man Ray, 1944). This helped to invigorate my autoethnographic series and well as becoming the method for some new work. I realized that ‘political’ work would speak to wider issues of medical, media, and governmental power. It was the political assemblages of Sarah Lucas that resonated most with me (Lucas, 2019). 


There are several factors that caused a change in my approach

2.1 Disappointment with the autoethnographic series to adequately show what I was experienced working remotely as a doctor at home. I thought that it was inadequate. 

2.2 Dissonance between what I heard from patients about their experiences of covid and lockdown and the false ‘reassurances’ of government about the severity of the pandemic. The most traumatic experience I had was helping someone to die in a nursing home. It was early in the pandemic and was all done using WhatsApp – not my idea of palliative care. That made me cry.

2.3 Disillusionment with institutional responses.  I attended the ‘Picturing Lockdown: Photography and the Pandemic. Format21 webinar with an OCA tutor (Derek Trillo) led discussion on 17/03/21. My blog comments “Where are all the angry politicised comment on Covid! Maybe I will make more of these images!! I also said something similar in the meeting. I realized that I wanted to make art that spoke about distress and anger during the pandemic. 

2.4 Synergy with the CTS research. This was shaping to be about medical image power and its resistance. This theoretical framework informed this work as this work contributed to my thesis. 

2.5 Determination. I have done work criticising the NHS in the past. I have also been advised not to publish work about whistleblowers because it would put me at risk of being sued by that powerful institution. As my anxiety about covid has lifted I feel more able to put work out there that is critical of powers and be able to defend my position. 


This assemblage series was developed with my tutor.

3.1 Use of a Padlet to develop the work. This was new to me and we used it to communicate asynchronously about the project. Their advice was more about examples and mine were ideas and experiments which were presented at assignments

3.2 Experimental and inventive assemblage images, starting small and low quality then more ideas and quality production. Playful yet serious. This development was step by step as I added new ideas, did some filming, changed the lighting and processing to produce the final series of images.

Other learning

1. Disappointment (about the autoethnographic images) acted as a trigger to look at other options which furthered my original intention and led me to experiment with new and unfamiliar conceptual ways of presenting my ideas

2. Taking a ‘chance’ and doing something different led reinvigorated my work. It enlivened my autoethnographic work, some experiments with staged room images in this assemblage series. 

3. Peer and tutor support matters. It was not until an OCA meeting that I made my mind up about the content and intention of some covid images was missing elements that I could speak up from. I have created my work but my tutor has given key direction that has helped me a lot.


Abel-Hirch, H. (2020) ‘Bex Day explores the experience of OCD from isolation. https://www.bjp-online.com/2020/05/bex-day-visualises-ocd-in-isolation/’ In: British Journal of Photography – online (20 May 2020)

About Viktoria Sorochinski. Webinar interview with Zoe Harrison. (2020) In: 1854 Access. Directed by Sorochinski, V. https://access.bjpsubs.com/1854-presents-viktoria-sorochinski-live/?utm_campaign=Newsletter%20Emails%202020&utm_medium=email&_hsmi=97118875&_hsenc=p2ANqtz-9j2oeXiiq79rbzEGZOo34VXYy7VyDmqXZ3Wv7MAJt2uFMpPeHpBPf4WJgOJjLS85ANY6b0weRPrWgJouFpxvmn1oPmSg&utm_content=97047404&utm_source=hs_email: 1854; British Journal of Photography.

Drucker, J. (2021) Searching for the miraculous: Serious Play. At: https://www.photopedagogy.com/serious-play.html (Accessed  15/05/2021).

Giuliani, A. (2020) Covid 19 – San Salvatore. At: https://www.albertogiuliani.com/2020/05/23/covid19 (Accessed  09/10/2020).

Lucas, S. (2019) Sarah Lucas: Au Naturale 09/26/18-01/20/19. [New Exhibitions Museum] At: https://www.newmuseum.org/exhibitions/view/sarah-lucas (Accessed  07/06/2021).

Man Ray (1944) Mr. knife and Mrs fork. At: https://artsandculture.google.com/asset/mr-knife-and-mrs-fork-man-ray/xQHhA3Y9mzC9nA?hl=en (Accessed  26/06/2021).

NPG (2020a) ‘Hold still’. At: https://www.npg.org.uk/hold-still/ (Accessed  14/10/2020).

NPG (2020b) Hold Still. Directors choice: ‘Helpers and heroes’. At: https://www.npg.org.uk/hold-still/hold-still-curators-choice/ (Accessed  14/10/2020).

Tate (2021) Assemblage – Art Term. At: https://www.tate.org.uk/art/art-terms/a/assemblage (Accessed  03/06/2021).

Zhang, I. R. (2020) ‘Viktoria Sorochinski’s dream-like lockdown project reconnects with the inner-self.’ In: British Journal of Photography – online At: https://www.bjp-online.com/2020/05/viktoria-sorochinskis-inside-outside/ (Accessed  04/10/2020).

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