M3 Wk1: From here to there

Week 1: Looking Back

My project is a study of the stained glass windows within Oxford’s chapels. With 47 chapels to contend with (I keep finding more!) I am focusing on just one window per chapel, although in reality, I typically photograph three of four. Using multiple exposure blending in order to create an image that demonstrates the wide and full dynamic range depicted within each window necessitates as many as thirty images of each window to be captured.  A composite image is created by piecing together, manually, the optimum individual glass pieces from the available range.  That image then receives a final edit, removing any damage and eliminating the horizontal support bars.  Depending upon the size and complexity of the window, post production can take 20+ hours.

A significant concern is the time and requirements it takes in order to secure access to the chapels.  Some of Oxford’s Colleges are very accommodating indeed, but rather too many play hard to get, or require an extraordinary level of paperwork. I am in a bit of a battle with one at the moment: I have filled out the very detailed two page ‘Tour, Filming and Photography Application Form’, which first has to undergo a committee hearing, then, if approved, has to be passed in front of the Governing Body for ratification.  This process should take less than two months.  However, they require me to have £10 million liability cover in place for photography in interior locations and currently I only have £5 million of cover.  I do a lot of competition target shooting… somewhat perversely, were I to travel into the chapel with one of my rifles, I would be covered for the required £10 million liability insurance!!

While I have enjoyed aspects of the previous modules, the one stand-out feature is that they prevent me from working on my project.  I can commit to one or the other, but not both. My aim for this module is to attempt the impossible, managing my job, my project and the module.  Quite how others cope with the addition of a family, I cannot imagine!

‘The break’ for me was the start of a new academic year, so since late August I have been working seven day weeks in-school… much looking forward to next Saturday and Sunday, being the first Leave of the term!  However, last Wednesday afternoon I did dash into Oxford and photograph three stained glass windows within Oxford’s smallest chapel: The Chapel of St. Edmund’s Hall, but these have yet to leave my camera. I hope to get the chance to work on these images during my off-duty nights this week – if that is the case, images will follow…

I was hoping to have edited two lights from the east window, but time only allowed for one…

DCP_8529 croppped (low res)The ‘before’ shot is the middle of the 25 exposure bracketed images, with the final image being the result of about ten hours of multiple exposure blending, followed by eight hours of editing to remove the supports bars (this image being particularly awkward as a result of the patterns on the assorted gowns).  The final part of the process was a return to the chapel, with the image saved on a tablet so that I can compare the edited image with the actual window or light.  In this instance, it required no further work… I was keen to brighten the image as it appears quite murky in places, but that is true to the original, so I have left it looking, perhaps, rather dull…

St. Edmund Hall - Ecce Agnus Dei (cut out) UPDATED PNG (low res)

This window is the earliest example in Oxford by Edward Burne-Jones and William Morris (1865).  The finished image suffers a little because the entire window is quite dirty… resulting in the blackened specks in many of the individual pains of glass. Additionally, I have noticed that the earlier pre-Raphaelite windows are significantly less vibrant than those of the late 1890’s and beyond.

The Latin quote, ‘Ecce Agnus Dei qui tollit peccata mundi‘ is from John 1:29… ‘Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world!’

M3 Wk1: From here to there

Week 1 Challenge: Time to Play

This week’s activity is from Michael Christopher Brown, an American photographer represented by Magnum Photos. He has gained an international reputation, especially for his documentation of the 2011 Libyan Civil War, which was published in a monograph titled Libyan Sugar, by Twin Palms Publishers in 2016.

“For much of my career, photography was more of a way to make money than a compulsion. I spent a lot of time communicating ideas that were not my own. Two years ago, during the Libyan Revolution, I began taking a more honest path with regards to photography. It had to do with finding a voice. An interesting exercise that anyone can do is to take one photograph per day for a week. The idea is to be focused enough to only photograph what is absolutely necessary. What are the seven pictures that not only define the week, but yourself? What if you were to die next week and these were to be the last seven pictures of your life? This exercise can be an important analysis of the self in relation to life and photography.”

Post your seven pictures in the forum space below and discuss what you have discovered.

Week 1 in photographs, captured on an iPhone X…

CE IMG_3522 (low res)Sunday: Choir practice prior to evensong at the Chapel of St. Nicholas.  In 20 years of singing in the chapel, I have never seen the east windows looking so impressively lit.  17:46, four minutes before the start of the practice and the sun was low in the sky to the west, with beautiful clear blue sky lining up perfectly with the top section of the window and sunlight reflecting off the autumnal hues of the trees some 120m in the background, providing warmth to the four figures.  I must hope for repeat conditions when I have the opportunity to photograph the window properly!

CE IMG_3525 (low res)
Monday: After 12 hours of uninterrupted meetings and contact time with children, the evening presented the chance for some project work.

CE IMG_3526 (low res)Tuesday: A full day of duties. 16:45 was my first break in the day, with duties continuing until 20:25.  As the final few boys head out for football practice, I had the chance to sit on the steps and appreciate a beautiful day in Oxford.

CE IMG_3531 (low res)Wednesday: My half day… I am free from 11:30, so headed out to the other side of Oxford to collect a selection of double-mounted prints that I am gradually putting together in readiness for a exhibition.  With the prospect of 40+ images to have mounted and framed, I am having to do this a few at a time to spread the cost. I am yet to commit to the framing!

CE IMG_3536 (low res)Thursday: Short Leave… the first break of the Michaelmas term and the chance to add to my portfolio.  Mansfield College is a stunning location, lit rather too well today, but that aided in my selection of stained glass windows to photograph.  The weather was just brilliant, and it is the perfect time to visit Oxford: most tourists and school visits have ceased, and the students do not return until Monday.  The back streets were quiet and I was quickly reminded why I love living here – I had a smile on my face all afternoon.

CE IMG_3551 (low res)Friday: More time spent in town and another perfect day… sadly not so perfect for photographing stained glass, where the idyllic conditions are overcast but bright.  New College is an old haunt at which I have sung on many occasions.  On checking in with the Porter’s Lodge, I was simply handed the huge and impressive bunch of ancient keys to the chapel (why didn’t I photograph them?!), and told to help myself.  However, the cloisters were looking particularly fine (known to many who have enjoyed the Harry Potter films).

CE IMG_3563 (low res)Saturday: Another beautiful day with the opportunity to edit some of the photographs taken in the past two days.  Extraordinarily, for the final days of September, my garden still needs watering and this is the rather splendid sight on the wall at the end of the garden: a vine growing from cuttings taken from an ancient vine within the school.

M3 Wk1: From here to there

Week 1: Reflection

Module 2 presented a number of difficulties for me largely as a result of the heavy work load and extracurricular commitments that surround the summer months.  My hope for Module 3 is that I will have the time to tackle the weekly assignments, webinars and course trappings on time – not least because I do not have the advantage of any holiday period in which to play catch-up.  Sadly, a newly introduced, restructured working day seems to overlook the need for any breaks in the day.  This would not be a significant problem if weekends were time off, but unfortunately in boarding education, the weekends are normal working days.

‘Alarmed’ does not come close to describing my feelings when I realised that the entirety of this university term and all the various deadlines, fall within the Michaelmas academic term of the school in which I teach.  Looking towards the end of the course and term, while writing 240+ end of term reports in the slack time around teaching, supervising and planning (a task clearly designed to test ones ability to work unhindered through prolonged sleep deprivation), I will also be fretting about the Oral Presentation – something that has thus far occupied me for more than a week of holiday each time I have produced one.  More worryingly, it looks as though the Sustainable Prospects course does not even allow a slight pause to accommodate assignments!

However, it is Monday of week 1, and I am in the process of completing much of the weekly expectations… just a day or two late.

I have enjoyed the opportunity this week to visit three of Oxford’s chapels, housed within New College; Mansfield College and Harris Manchester College.  This has provided me with many tens of hours worth of editing – in fact well over 150 hours worth, if I edit all of the stained glass windows that I have photographed.  The time it takes to produce just one edited image is a source for concern.  I do invest heavily into selecting, where possible, windows that require less complicated editing, and that editing is becoming ever more efficient, but one completed stained glass window still represents 20+ hours of editing.  Clearly time-management is of vital importance, but difficult to achieve when salaried work commitments in term time weigh in at around 60 hours per week.

Week 1 has been an interesting journey through the ideas of photographic employment.  I have no doubt that many will have listened to and read about the wealth of varied jobs that fall into the umbrella of photography, and realised that they currently do most of them unaided!  I have been described as a ‘control freak’ and a ‘perfectionist’ by those who routinely experience my photographic, reprographic and design work: I struggle to step away from any aspect of a project.  Clearly if I am to move into full time photography, it seems clear that I have to accept that I will only be one part of a process.  Perhaps it is time to rationalise what I currently do… difficult… I love the freedom of composition and image capturing; I enjoy the ‘chase’ of image editing and the satisfaction of a completed image; I quietly enjoy the appreciation by others of my work, and just occasionally I have the gratification of payment!

Time to Play:

Retrospectively, I thoroughly enjoyed the challenge of taking a photograph each day.  There were a couple days when I rather forgot, but the results seem fine and the annotations resulted in a narrative that painted a rough picture of my working life.

Looking Back:

I suspect that there is little by way of reflection that I can add to the a piece that is in itself a reflection, although I am rather sorry and surprised that a piece of work from the ‘break’ cannot be included in the Module 3 Work in Progress Portfolio.

M3 Wk2: You are a business

Week 2: Whose Image is it Anyway?


Image on left: original photography by Patrick Cariou / image on right: artwork by Richard Prince

Copyright law.  There have been some notable art copyright cases in recent decades. One of the most significant is French photographer Patrick Cariou’s claim, suing Richard Prince and his gallery, Gagosian, for copyright infringement. Read more about the case here  or an even more detailed report here.

I am no fan of this style of work – how can a few crude daubs of paint and a magazine cutting make this a new work of art (or indeed ‘art’). There seems far too much sympathy in using the work ‘appropriation’ – there is no synonym that can make it acceptable. If it necessary to exhibit such work, I could come close to tolerating it if there were clear apologies to the original artist/photographer and if the exhibition was clearly labelled as being one of intellectual property theft and vandalism.

I cannot begin to agree with the decision of the court.

I find it saddening that one level of argument in favour of the court is that Cariou did at least gain publicity for his work. When Cariou took the original photography, he had no intention of gaining from the exposure of this case. It must be rather galling to be better known as the person whose work was appropriated by someone else, rather than for your skills as a photographer.

Cariou was not approached with regard to permission, so it would seem improbable that the subject in the photograph received that common courtesy. I wonder how such a case would be handled in Europe? The GDPR issues alone could be sizable.

In the back of my mind is the thought that my project could be seen as being repurposing of other people’s art: the project sees me photographing then editing stained glass windows. However, the artists are all deceased, I always seek permission from the owner of the art work prior to any photography, and I gain approval for use of the photograph once the editing is complete. My project does not see me reinterpret the works (despite Course-based encouragement to do so) and the only editing is corrective (removing cracks in glass; erasing grime and dirt; removing support bars). Any publication of the images sees full reference to the original artist, the copyright owner of the original item and details the location of the item: I am working in collaboration with the owners (in the absence of the artist). I believe that this is the only acceptable way of ‘using’ pre-existing art works… however, for the benefit of my project, should you feel that I am omitting an important step, please do comment to that effect.

M3 Wk2: You are a business

Week 2 Challenge: Let’s Talk Business

This week’s activity therefore, requires thought about the following three areas in relation to my practice:

  • A Mission Statement
  • The Product
  • The Market

This is an opportunity to consider them from a more commercial angle.

Mission Statement
The fantastic beauty of stained glass windows is rarely replicated in a photography as there are so many factors inhibiting the process: the weather and lighting conditions may be unfavourable; a camera lacks sufficient dynamic range; there may be a build-up of years of dust and grime; the horizontal support bars detract from the original design.  Dominic Price’s vision is to record an image that is a lasting memory of a stained glass window, viewed as fresh and clear as the original artist would have wanted.

The Product
An initial site visit ascertains the logistics of the shoot, together with the most opportune time of day and time of the year to take the photograph.  Diffused, bright light is optimal, avoiding harsh shadows created by the lead calmes that hold the individual panes of glass together.  However, vegetation and surrounding buildings can have a dramatic impact on the anticipated lighting were one to carry out remote calculations.  If the site lends itself to a straightforward set up, then the photography stage typically takes no more than an hour per light (an individual vertical division of a window), with up to 30 exposure bracketed images being taken for each view.  The stained glass window or light is then reconstructed individual pane at a time, by selecting the most appropriately exposed fragment of an image from the exposure bracketed range.  With the image reassembled, any damaged or overly dirty panes are corrected.  A follow-up location visit allows the chance for a final comparison with the original prior to the digital removal of any support bars.  The final image can be supplied in a number of ways, from digital file to a host of print options, with a Giclée print on 310gsm standard fine art paper; double mounted in white card, then black box framed, being the preferred finish.

The Market
With scarce competition in the field, the potential market is huge: any location with stained glass.  Beyond individual images, there is the opportunity for exhibiting works to local communities as well as publishing the images within guide books or as greetings cards.  Clearly religious festivals are well documented within stained glass windows and lend themselves well to the greetings card market.

M3 Wk2: You are a business

Week 2: Independent Reflection

This has been a week where necessity had placed project-related practical work on hold.  However, I have sourced some useful publications to which I have committed time in the evenings…

Waters, W. (2012) Angels & Icons Pre-Raphaelite Stained Glass 1850-1870. Worcester: Seraphim Press Ltd. (Photography: Carew-Cox, A.)

Angels & Icons.jpgThis stunning 368-page hardback came direct from the photographer and represents nine years of research by author William Walters.  The detail is impressive and it has already proved its worth in helping with my research.  Possibly more importantly and certainly more uniquely within this field, it is illustrated throughout with exquisite images taken by photographer Alastair Carew-Cox.

I have been in communication with Alastair a few times with regard to his work.   For Angels & Icons he used 5″x4″ film and a plate camera to correct perspective.  However, in his most recent publication Damozels & Deities, in addition to plate he has used high end digital with tilt and shift lenses.  Because of the academic importance of the publications, he has to photograph what is actually in front of him, warts and all.  Consequently, unlike my images, his receive minimal post production, with the support bars, blemished and damage, etc., left in.

Volume three of the series is currently being researched and photographed, featuring far more of the works of Henry Holiday – a favourite artist of both of us.

Lifelines 12With a number of my recent site visits featuring the works of Edward Burne-Jones, another book purchase was also by William Walters:

Waters, W. (1973) Burne-Jones: An Illustrated Life of Sir Edward Burne-Jones 1833-1898. Aylesbury, Shire Publications Ltd.

One of the earlier publications by Walters, this 48-page small paperback is illustrated throughout in black and white.  It provides an interesting life story of Burne-Jones, but sadly (for me) only touches on his stained glass work, focusing instead more on his watercolours and pencil drawings.

Rather less of an easy read and substantially harder to source, was one of Henry Holiday’s books:

Holiday, H. (1914) Reminiscences of My Life. London, William Heinemann.

I was hoping that this autobiography would mention some of Holiday’s works for the Chapel of St. Nicholas, but sadly there is no reference at all!  I outlines the varied and numerous interests of the artist and in particular his involvement with the Pre-Raphaelites,  and is illustrated with his work.  Thus far I have only dipped into the pages, having prioritised work, research and sleep ahead of the 465 pages!

M3 Wk3: The digital new possibilities

Week 3: Instagram

I would argue Instagram is currently the most effective social media platform for self promotion.  If you have not got an Instagram account already, then I would like you to set one up.

This week I want you to try and create and implement an Instagram strategy that you feel will help you reach future, potential clients (whether ad agencies, curators or potential collectors), and then develop your account so you have 30 followers over the course of a week.

Anna-Maria Pfab

As a long-term user of Instagram, the technical difficulties of setting up a ‘business’ account were minimal.  However, the process did flag up concerns about the safety of my works online.

To maximise the visual impact of posted images, I followed the recommended resolution: 1080px x 1080px.  In order to present some of my images uncropped, I have spread them across three posts… producing a 3.2mp image that could be grabbed and used in certain circumstances on a commercial basis.

In keeping with many social media sites, Instagram demonstrates very little care for its users and forces a licencing agreement (HERE) upon users that is at best questionable, and led to much discussion within the Falmouth Forum.

InstagramI was certainly neither keen nor enthusiastic to be ‘forced’ to jump into such a project without being given the appropriate time for planning as well as researching best practice.  However, when compared with the Week 3 Challenge, there were far fewer consequences to the potential for getting this wrong, so with much tentative care I progressed.

My initial account was set at ‘Private’, but after three days I changed that setting, realising that it was impractical to have a private business account!


M3 Wk3: The digital new possibilities

Week 3: Challenge – Image Virus

This week you will create an Image Virus.

Make an image that you feel is intriguing and appealing, and spread it around as many places as possible. Keep the credit anonymous. Photocopy the image and paste the copies on walls throughout your city (within reason – I don’t want you to get into trouble for fly posting), mail copies to everyone you know, post copies through letter boxes in your neighbourhood. On the back of the photocopy leave only an e-mail address and a hasthag. If anyone e-mails you, reply with only the image as an attachment. E-mail this image to everyone you know. Make a website for it, make it your status on social media – tweet it, post it, blog it. And get others to spread it around the internet; ask you friends to help. If the virus becomes widespread enough, you might find it returned to you, or used by others.
I obviously don’t want to get you into trouble – so please do this within reason.

The internet is a powerful space and will present you with many possibilities to spread your Image Virus. Track your Image Virus via any e-mails you receive, and with the hashtag. Do this for a few days, or even a few weeks, and then write 200 – 300 words on what happened and share your experience with your peers in the space below. Discuss what worked, and what did not work.

If you need a little inspiration – I once did something similar when I was studying and the results were as fascinating as astonishing.

Here is an overview of that project: http://spaceyideas.com/todonnalovebob/

Anna-Maria Pfab

I have thought long and hard about this challenge.  Working primarily in IT, my contact list, built up over 25+ years, has a significant bias toward those in the broad field of IT.  Junk mailing them with an image and the tag Image Virus is likely to achieve little more than to test their firewall.  I have tested this premis on our servers, within a walled garden (essentially a secure virtual environment designed for testing web-based matters). Our security blocked the message from being sent… even if ‘virus’ was not in the subject.

Moving away from the IT side of things, I question the positive influence of junk mailing potential clients or flyposting their neighbourhood.  Oxford City Council has fought against this proactively for many years (New powers used to tackle blight of flyposting) with fines of up to £2500 in addition to on-the-spot-fines.

For me to participate in this challenge, a rethink is required. When time allows, I will endeavour to turn to a more research-based ‘virus’.  Many years ago I was given a Kodak Junior No.1A, complete with 100’s of negatives.  A recent house move revealed them once again and I had the inclination and a little time to look further, revealing a fascinating story of life in India or perhaps Egypt in the early 1900’s.  I would love to know more, so perhaps using the Internet to spread these images may help.

The best I have achieved thus far is that the vehicles are Holt Tractors which were introduced to the army in 1913.

Kodack Junior 01Kodack Junior 02Kodack Junior 03

M3 Wk3: The digital new possibilities

Week 3: Independent Reflection


The account has taken shape quite well: dpplimited, but it strikes me as odd that there is no option to ‘invite’ followers within Instagram.

With hindsight, creating the account and adding 27 images prior to any tagging or attempts to attract custom may have been an error.  A drip-feed of those images would have made better sense.  I am also regretting the choice of a layout that requires posts three-at-a-time to be added – this makes the process of posting far more involved and not always as instant as I would like, since I have to wait until I have three appropriate images to add.    However, by the end of the week the account was being followed by at least 30 people.

I question the usefulness of Instagram as a business tool for my photography… Instagram predominates on mobile platforms, with images being viewed small-scale.  With only 10% of Instagram users being over 35, it seems probable that the vast majority on Instagram would be disinterested in stained glass windows.

Image Virus:

I have not yet ventured into the image virus foray, but stand by the variation of investigating I mooted, using the power of the World Wild Web to help the Kodak Junior No.1A images.

M3 Wk4: Show & tell

Week 4: Begin at the Beginning

Today I want you to rediscover why you love to take photographs.

Review your earliest work an reflect: What do you see in it? Can you find a theme that connects it to the work you make today? What do you like and dislike about the early work? What was it about these photographs that made you want to be a photographer?

Use the space below to share and discuss these photographs with your classmates. Comment on the work of your peers – especially if you are familiar with the kind of work they are doing now. Tell them what you see in their early work and how it connects to what they do now.

Anna-Maria Pfab

I was taking photographs from the age of about 8 and with access to a darkroom, it was not long before I was printing my own work. As a youngster I used to love my time in the darkroom. There was definitely a sense of magic in watching the images develop: it seemed to be a very special place, working under filtered light in a small space with and a smell of chemicals that I have always liked! What can I say… I have a BSc and was formally Head of Science at a school – the enjoyment of chemicals has never left me!

Sadly I cannot locate any of my images from those early days, but by the time I was 17 I was teaching myself A-Level photography, with a portfolio based on the local landscape: living on the edge of Dartmoor I was rather spoilt for choice and loved being outside taking photographs.  I developed a penchant for printing images very hard on Ilford Multigrade…


I also spent much time photographing the sports and events around the school, with running costs being covered by the school (they would get to use my images for the school magazine) and prints also being sold to my friends. While I loved photography, and enjoyed providing a much appreciated service for my friends, I was also enjoying making money out of the process – a very important thing for a teenager!

School Photo queue (615)

University gave me the occasional chance to dabble with press work.  I managed to be first on the scene with a camera when the Royal Engineers Bomb Disposal Squad were dealing with a series of incendiaries planted in shops on Cornmarket Street – usually the busiest shopping street in Oxford.

Oxford Bomb Squad (615)

I continue to love sports photography, whether for the school in which I work, or for a somewhat broader market.  I will never grow tired of being outdoors, particularly with a camera, and do enjoy the feedback from those who see my work.  Any monies are always welcomed!

Kiran (low res)

DCP (5) (615)

So to my Research Project… photographing stained glass windows in Oxford chapels.  Well, I wanted a challenge: it seemed too easy to stick with that which I had always done.