The right to copy?

Copyright or copy wrong

Having recently completed a section of work looking at appropriated images, or re-appropriated images, this article gives food for thought. Just because an image can be found on the internet does not make it available to download or copy in any way. I had thought that Creative Commons meant one could do just that but it appears that even CC has its own rules and laws.


CCO Public Domain

CCO Public Domain

This seems to be an increasing issue given the use of technology. And how do we find our way through it without creating so many laws that we become caught up in the sticky red tape that so may artists seek to escape through their art.


These is a sense of ownership which I am not altogether clear on. Apparently you can own an idea. You can own a series of words arranged in a specific order and you can own other variations of marks presented in a way that you design. I understand it from a financial point of you and perhaps even from a philosophical point of view but for me it seems to fall into the category of “Cloudy opportunities for misunderstanding”.


These thoughts emanated from my reflection on  this article in ArtsJournal, an online newsletter.


Photography Exercise 2 : research point

The daily flood of photographs

Although I have a Facebook page, I don’t use it very much and seldom post images. Am I contributing to the flood of images that sweep through cyber space each day? I think not. These images feel quite transient so although I can feel the flood – like potential, they do seem to move along quite swiftly. Are they collecting in some very large pool somewhere into which an unsuspecting person might drown? Again I think not.

As a rather limited user of social media, I researched the figures to find out more. According to Instagram more that 95 million photos or images are uploaded daily with more than 300 million people using Instagram every single day.  This is just Instagram. Alongside this there are the photos posted on Facebook which boasts more than a billion people posting daily  , millions posting each month on Flikr and yes, there are other sites too.


Does anyone really look at these millions of photographs?  What are they for? I am curious about the motivation for posting and the responses people receive. It seems to me that this form of communication may be a way of avoiding the face to face kind, eye to eye, where there is a dialogue that might hopefully be meaningful.
Perhaps I am just old-fashioned, or just old, but for me social media has a place in a range of ways of connecting and should not become the major way. Photographs are a fantastic way of sharing experiences but is anyone really interested?


Facebook statistics

Company Info

Flikr statistics

How many public photos are uploaded to Flickr every day, month, year?

Instagram statistics

Part 4 Photography : exercise 2


I like the lines in this photo, particularly the way the roof of the building and the men’s heads line up. The three similar hats with the fourth man hatless is pleasing. The cricket players in the background, in their own separate group, seem quite animated whilst the people watching are simply sitting. The combination of this brings more interest and narrative. Although the image is slightly out of focus, for me it is “artistic”.

Glass Ceiling

Again the lines of this interest me. It is quite a simple image but the light and shapes are attractive. I almost expect the green to be a different colour as the light is very strong through the central plain glass. Perhaps images that surprise me also feel more “artistic”.



The colours and shapes are pleasing in this image and the framing of the photograph. The twisting branches in the foreground add a layer of interest which builds with the colours on the tree and on the ground.westonbirt-2  The image has depth and movement and good composition.


The peacefulness of this scene is appealing. It evokes a sense of space and an atmosphere of a summer’s day. The reflections in the water, the stillness and the absence of any people or wild life give it a dreamlike quality.imgp0208 Almost an invitation to drift away on the boat.



It is curious that some photographs seem to have qualities that might be overlooked in the quest for the best focussed or some other attribute. In looking through photos for this exercise, images that hold a story seem to be the most interesting to me.  Yet those whose story is simply the wonder of the architecture such as the Glass Ceiling also attract attention. Is it something that speaks to a past memory or experience? Sometimes. Other times the unexpected, surprising image is more attractive, and particularly if it encourages me to see the world differently.

Where a photograph has been taken intentionally and with care, there does appear to be a more “artistic” element. However, I become ever more aware of the subjectivity and personal experience when looking at photographs.

I took some photographs of my local environs. How would I describe to another, through images,  the place where I live. Initially I wanted to show what I imagined to be the important things. The town centre, the Cotswold stone buildings, the landscape of five valleys. The pictures were rather wooden, formal, more like examples of a typical Cotswold town and less like this specific town.

As I loosened up with the ideas I found images that reflected more of the charm that I have found here, a more emotional quality. There was less of me trying to show what I thought another person would want to see, and more of me showing what was special for me. It became more of a personal exercise.

The photos below were ones that received comments relating to their artistic merit, such as good light, sense of houses nestled in woods, historical,  rural and pastoral.


Taken from high up to give a more interesting view and sense of levels of trees, houses and hilltops


Early morning mist over the trees. There is an ordinary suburban house in the top left corner with cows lying down on the common grazing ground.


The old buildings in this old market town





Project 1 Photography- art or science? Research Point

‘Context as a Determinant of Photographic Meaning’

Thoughts on the essay by  John A Walker

Photographs in context and  the place of presentation – this is a fascinating and thought-provoking topic. The photograph draws attention in different ways, for example if it is in a celebrity magazine it is about the subjects whereas if it is in a commercial photographer’s shop window it is presenting the skill. If it is in an exhibition it may be offering an artistic emphasis or it may be telling a story. Some of the contexts mentioned in John Walker’s article which I’d like to keep in mind : architectural, media, socio – historical and of course the individual mental contexts of the viewer . As with paintings, the viewer looks at the photograph through his own personal lens . There is the mental context of knowledge or lack there-of, prejudice, conditioning, memories and preferences which affect the way the image is perceived and experienced .


Another consideration is the possible third impact, for example, when placed beside another photograph or when a caption is added, what then does that convey . Walker’s example of the image of a herd of sheep being moved into a pen, and the image of a crowd of people getting onto an underground train is very telling. Each image in its own right could be powerful, but juxtaposing them would create a third response, perhaps much more powerful that the individual images.

The fact that photographs can be reproduced and appear in many different contexts makes the image available in many different ways . The original idea behind the photograph can be lost as a result. Does this matter? This idea of context with photographs is an extraordinary paradox. A fixed image, a moment set in time, and yet it has such potential to change  its meaning. Is this part of the attraction of photography?


Why do people go to galleries to view photographic exhibitions ? Why do they look at books of photographs ? When it is proactive rather than being faced with billboards or images in the newspaper etc, what is the motivation ? For me in the past it has been more about entertainment and yet now it is more about education . At different times there might be different requirements from people viewing exhibitions . If I am studying photography I might be looking at another photographer’s work with a completely different agenda than if I were interested in the topic being presented .

I notice that I held my own unconscious prejudice that photography on a serious level ( yes, there are even levels of criticism) is more about commission . For example serious photographers are commissioned to illustrate books , to show wildlife or botanicals for learning , or to create photographic portraiture . Art books rely on photographers to take the most skilled and accurate representation.  It is as if I viewed” serious” photography in similar ways that early art was created and patron – led.

Having read the John Walker document this prejudice becomes conscious and I can see how it may have affected my viewing of photographic exhibitions , which have been limited , no doubt as a result . I surprise myself by this as I do enjoy photography as an art form. I also very much enjoy Victorian photography for its staged and artistic merit.

Observing my own varied approaches to viewing photographs is a reminder of how very differently others  view and respond.

Pixabay CCO Public Domain

Pixabay CCO Public Domain

Part four Photography : project 1 research point

Research point The Pencil of Nature

Reading William Henry Fox Talbot’s introductory sections to The Pencil of Nature   (1844 -1846) was a surprisingly moving experience. He describes his experiments with a camera obscura whilst visiting Lake Como in Italy, and his moment of inspiration.


He writes, “….how charming it would be if it were possible to cause these natural images to imprint themselves durably and remain fixed upon the paper! And why should it not be possible? I asked myself”.


His determination and ongoing patient experiments with light, chemicals and paper touched me deeply as I give so little thought to the inventors of those things which I now take for granted.


Talbot eventually invented the Calotype  ( a Greek word meaning beautiful picture) and this was the first method which allowed printed copies to be made.


William Henry Fox Talbot (English, 1800 - 1877) The Open Door., late April 1844, Salted paper print from a Calotype negative 14.9 x 16.8 cm (5 7/8 x 6 5/8 in.) The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles Digital image courtesy of the Getty's Open Content Program

William Henry Fox Talbot (English, 1800 – 1877)
The Open Door., late April 1844, Salted paper print from a Calotype negative
14.9 x 16.8 cm (5 7/8 x 6 5/8 in.)
The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
Digital image courtesy of the Getty’s Open Content Program

Do I see photography as mechanical or creative? Can any process be both? Yes, I do believe that any process can be both and photography is a good example of this. The more one understands the “mechanics” of light and shade, the fact that light travels in a straight line, and that light can be manipulated, the more one can work creatively with photography.


One of Talbot’s images, as pictured here, is of a simple broom resting diagonally across an open doorway.  In The Pencil of Nature Talbot describes the creation of this image as “…the early beginnings of a new art” . The image shows   the inner and outer aspects of what appears to be a barn. The eye is led from the bright  light in the foreground into the darker interior and then towards the filtered light through the shuttered windows.  Talbot clearly positioned the door and the broom and waited for the precise moment that the light offered the best contrasts and an  opportunity for his Calotype. For me this is the work of an artist.


The diagonal broom is almost a barrier to the room beyond, but  its lines are mirrored by the diagonal shadow on the invitingly open door. I see this as the play between light and dark, life and death, the threshold. I realise the Talbot was influenced by the  artists he admired and that his choice of subject matter was about everyday objects at a time when this was unconventional.


So, again, can any process be both mechanical and creative – certainly.  I think  creativity is the ability to see connections  and to work intuitively.  If I consider the mechanical aspect to be about design, this is more of a problem solving approach but probably requires similar processes that would include  research and experimentation. Talbot is a great example of the interdependence of the mechanical and creative.




Commentary on Visual Communications

Studying this section on Visual Communications has alerted me to the unconscious responses and subliminal messages of advertising, and  visual communications generally . I now find myself more curious about the elements of magazine images and the television adverts . I’m also more interested in the opening film clip and credits of television programmes , something which previously I ignored . The creativity in this area is engaging and inspiring me to seek to understand this aspect of communication .

As a counsellor in my day job, communication is an essential tool . I have used a simple form of art therapy to help people express emotions that may feel too painful or scary to speak about , but this section on visual communications has opened my mind to a far greater extent and reminded me of archetypal images considered by psychiatrist/psychotherapist, Carl Jung, to be part of the collective unconscious . An example of this is the ugly witch. When seen in any context this image is most likely to arouse the same feelings . This fascinates me as the idea of an image that transcends language and western culture whilst carrying the same message


I enjoyed looking at the knitting projects and although I have a healthy image of knitters it was a delight to see the creativity end unexpected ideas . Perhaps the most intriguing of the exercises has been exploring images like the “Join the Navy” poster with the sailor astride the torpedo . Although in these times we openly acknowledge and recognize the torpedo as a phallic symbol, in the 1920s that acknowledgment may have not been conscious but would still have had an effect on the viewer. The unconscious message of power and strength through sexual prowess would have been there and actively affected the viewer in the same way that a more conscious response would affect a viewer today.


The relationship between images when re-contextualised is interesting too. I enjoy the idea of building on the familiar image  then creating something partly or entirely different. Where this may be socially-specific, for example in political satire, it becomes almost like an “in-joke” and could possibly be an image with no text.
Re – appropriated images offer a similar opportunity. When researching for the assignment online there were several images used in this way including those of the Mona Lisa, selling pizza, wearing a niqab, and even sporting a smiley face emoticon.

Although I do not feel drawn to study this area further, I have very much enjoyed it and learned a great deal. I have a greater appreciation of the way images are used, as well as the impact of typography which I first discovered as an art form earlier in the course. Despite having little knowledge of how to create images using technology, I have felt inspired to try. With a free app I took my chosen Vermeer image and created something different as shown here. I feel this part of the course will improve my creativity and widen my view.
(503 words)picsketch-2016-09-16-13-22-48

Assignment three : Re-appropriating images

Jan van Eyck, The Portrait of Givanni Arnolfini and his Wife Giovanna Cenami ( The Arnolfini Marriage), 1434

Jan van Eyck, The Portrait of Givanni Arnolfini and his Wife Giovanna Cenami ( The Arnolfini Marriage), 1434 ( Creative Commons)

Re-appropriated images had not caught my attention before researching for this assignment, however, I realise that artists can be greatly inspired by the work of others. I will discuss this further whilst exploring The Portrait of Giovanni Arnolfini and his wife Giovanna Cemani by Jan van Eyck. I will also offer an examination of the Vermeer painting, A Girl Reading at the Open Window and the re-appropriation of that image by photographer Tom Hunter, entitled Woman Reading a Possession Order, looking at how the images relate to one another and the use of visual communication and media.


I was not familiar with the Jan van Eyck Arnolfini Marriage image and my first impression of it, accessed online was one of curiosity. It is so finely painted with extraordinary detail and clearly full of symbolism. It became ever more interesting as I discovered that it was painted in 1434, in Bruges, at a time when it was more usual for artists to be commissioned to paint royalty or religious figures. I wondered why it would have been painted and for whom. In some ways, the research into these questions was as fascinating as the portrait itself. Originally thought of as a record of marriage, in the same way that we might photograph a couple today, research shows that the woman in the painting might not be Giovanna Cemani after all.


Historian, Jacques Paviot, during unrelated research in the early 90’s, found a reference to Arnolfini’s wedding to Giovanna Cenami. placing the wedding in 1447, 13 years after the date on the portrait and six years after van Eyck’s death. Could the painting have been an idealised vision, with a younger Arnolfini and a fantasy bride?
Whilst hundreds of people might have seen the portrait in the last 500 years, it is now displayed at the National Gallery in London and available to view worldwide by anyone who has access to the internet. In addition, unlike the middle ages there are now numerous art books available to buy and to read in libraries. Online Information about the painting is freely available and translated into several languages, again giving access to millions of people. Alongside this, new information can be accessed rapidly, building more understanding of the social and political times as reflected in this and other paintings.


The painting remains of great historical value as it is one of the first images to portray people who lived more ordinary lives, giving the viewer something more real to identify with. The symbols of wealth shown, for example in the fur-trimmed clothing, the brass chandelier, the imported oranges (which might also signify sensuality) and the rug on the floor, demonstrate that the couple were possibly successful merchant class. Despite first appearances that the woman might be pregnant we now know that the style of the day was to have voluminous folds of fabric draped around the body. This would have been understood by viewers in the 15th century but confusing to more modern eyes.
Some of the symbolism used in paintings hundreds of years ago does, however, maintain a common interpretation. The oranges could be exchanged for apples and both might suggest temptation and sensuality.
In the re-appropriated image that I have chosen to work with, Tom Hunter’s photograph of Woman Reading Possession Order, a bowl of fruit has been replaced by a baby. This says to me that the baby is the fruit of a relationship. The photograph is a re-appropriated image of Johannes Vermeer’s A Girl Reading a Letter by an Open Window. In an article in The Guardian in 2009, Tom Hunter says, “ I took this in 1997, for my master’s degree show at the Royal College of Art. The 17th-century golden age of Dutch painting had had a massive impact on me: the way they dealt with ordinary people, not kings, queens and generals. I thought if I could borrow their style for squatters and travellers, it would elevate their status.” The photograph won an award and has been exhibited widely.

Girl Reading a Letter at an Open Window. Vermeer, J. 1658

Girl Reading a Letter at an Open Window. Vermeer, J. 1658 (Google Cultural Institute))

Woman Reading a Possession Order. Hunter,T 1997

Woman Reading Possession Order. Hunter,T 1997 (





Like the Vermeer painting, Hunter shows a woman standing at a window with a play of light bringing the outside into the room. In both images the window is an essential symbol but I think that in the Vermeer painting, the window is confining, holding the “girl” within a relationship that she would perhaps prefer to leave. The woman reading the possession notice in the photograph is about to lose the safety of her home where she has been a squatter. For her the window might signify protection from the outside world. Hunter describes his work as a piece of propaganda, as he  highlights the plight of squatters being evicted at that time.
The Vermeer image is now displayed at The Old Masters Picture Gallery in Dresden. Painted towards the end of the 1650’s, the “girl” is pictured with a bowl of fruit as mentioned earlier. The fruit tumbles from a dish onto a brightly coloured rug on a table. One of the pieces of fruit has been cut open revealing the stone. Could this signify more than temptation and perhaps an illicit relationship has begun?   In both images the artist has captured a sense of stillness in the women as they read their respective letters. They stand in similar postures, with similar hairstyles and colouring. Each wears a serious expression and from the viewer’s perspective the letter inspires curiosity. What does the letter say?  What does it mean for the woman reading it?


In conclusion, there is much to say about the value of using a familiar image to add a layer of information to a re-appropriated image. The original symbolism may be altered or embellished whilst developing a more overt message. The context of the image tells the viewer more about the event as well as describing something of the social mores of the day. When the title is explanatory, such as the Hunter photograph, it adds to the message of the image.


The National Gallery (Accessed 14/09/16)

A Picture worth Many Thousand Words Buchholz, S. 2000 University of Massachusetts Amherst Archives.

(Accessed 14/09/16)

Tom Hunter website showing image (Accessed 14/09/16)

Google Cultural Institute  (Accessed 14/09/16)

Essential Vermeer (Accessed 14/09/16)

Tom Hunter My Best Shot Pulver,A. 2009 The Guardian newspaper article. ( Accessed 14/09/16)

Tom Hunter website ( Accessed 14/09/16)
Response to the Tutor Report

The feedback was disappointing. I found the assignment a real challenge to respond to what I imagined were questions requiring answers, and to keep it within the 1,000 word limit It seems that I misunderstood what was required. What I learn from this is that I could have queried the areas that confused me.

I began with the Arnolfini Marriage discussion as there appeared to be questions pertaining to it in the assignment. The final point asked for a 1000 word essay reflecting on the questions posed.
The main learning for me though, is that I tend to accept the artist’s comments or statements about their work without question. I imagine that the artist has some sort of right to describe the work and that I have no right to question. It has been useful for me to explore that way of thinking.


With Hunter’s photograph of “Woman Reading a Possession Order”, I offered his rationale which was to support those squatters who faced eviction. I have no way of knowing if this was true or not, however I did not question it. What do I think about it? I think it is possibly true.


Looking at his website, I see that Hunter has been largely expressing socio-political images and representing people whom he feels are marginalised in some way.. I do think that “Woman Reading a Possession Order” is a beautiful image and that it might be perceived in this way as a first response. However, in the context of the original exhibition which was called Persons Unknown, it is more likely to have been viewed as a statement, given the political mood of the times. The young woman does look well dressed and well-groomed which might give cause for doubt as to her status as a squatter. However, we do not know how long she has been in this situation . The image might also intentionally challenge prejudice about what  a squatter should look like.
The difference between Hunter’s photograph and the Vermeer painting to which it refers, is largely accessibility. The photograph can be reproduced, enlarged, miniaturized, the colours altered, whereas the painting is a steadfast image (apart from possible fading of pigment). Both images show everyday people and invite speculation which I find interesting.
My referencing has been tortuous and I think I have a better idea of how to link to online references.
I feel disappointed generally with the assignment as I had been fully engaged in Part Three and thought I had gained from it.

Enough is enough

Enough…by David Whyte

Enough. These few words are enough.
If not these words, this breath.
If not this breath, this sitting here.
This opening to the life
we have refused
again and again
until now.
Until now

Sometimes I feel that there are too many words, too many thoughts. I really do want to say ………enough, basta, finito!  Just stop talking, reading, writing, typing,. Just stop.
I wonder why that is,  and then I read this poem and there is something about the words creating a barrier between the unlived life and the life I create. Hmm.


Research and planning for assignment 3

arnolfini-mind-mapRe-appropriating images

The Portrait of Giovanni Arnolfini and his Wife Giovanna Cenami by Jan van Eyck is an extraordinary piece, full of symbolism and connotation. ( Are those two things the same?)
The portrait was painted in Bruges and 1434. Viewing it almost 500 years later it’s easy to make suppositions and interpretations without understanding the context and conventions of the time . Though the scene is in the bedroom , which today may be considered a private space , it was not uncommon for a bedroom to be open to visitors in the 1400s . The couple are standing in the doorway, looking of the room and in the mirror behind them another couple are reflected, who would be facing them, looking into the room.  My initial response seeing the Arnolfini couple was that they were newly wed and that the wife was pregnant . My research shows that neither of these ideas were true .

It has been interesting to discover the way clothing was used in portraits to represent wealth and a fashionable merchant class . The woman in the portrait is wearing a winter gown trimmed with fur despite it clearly being a bright and warm day  as indicated by the light at the window. The oranges suggest that it would have been  summer , but the winter clothes both figures are wearing would be more ostentatious. The gathered folds of green fabric might suggest pregnancy to the modern eye and I but were in fact the style of the day for those who could afford gowns with many extra yards of fabric.

The rug on the floor and brass chandelier also indicate wealth. Only one candle is lit, again indicating a bright day. The single candle could represent the presence of God.  The circular mirror is decorated with small illustrations showing the stations of the cross, another object which indicates wealth, whilst also showing that the Arnolfini couple were not alone. The dog in the foreground represents faithfulness which adds to the confusion of the status of the couple as possible newly-weds.

There are wooden sandals on the floor, perhaps again indicating wealth. This is one of the earliest portraits of people other than royalty, a couple that the merchant classes could identify with, as their homes and clothing would be similar. Although the man has been identified, there is some question about the identity of the woman. I wonder if she is an idealised image? Perhaps someone Arnolfini would like to marry?  The two possibilities of who the woman could be remained unmarried in the year the portrait was painted. Most art historians accepted that the painting was a portrait of Giovanni di Arrigo Arnolfini and his wife Jeanne Cenami but a chance discovery in 1997 established that they were married in 1447, thirteen years after the date on the painting and six years after van Eyck’s death.


Why was it painted?

Van Eyck would have been commissioned to paint the portrait and It seems that the painting was originally thought of as almost a marriage document, a record of the couple’s wedding. . It is an interesting idea that it may have been a wishful image of the bride that Arnolfini would have liked. Perhaps a fantasy woman.

Who would have seen it?
The original image would have been seen by few people compared to the millions who visit the National Gallery in London , where the painting now hangs. To have access to galleries such as these online is an extraordinary event . Paintings can be viewed by people all over the world . When I researched the painting I found information on the Khan Academy site which also enlarged areas of the work allowing me to see detail .

How would audiences have interpreted the painting?
As this was one of the earliest portraits of non-royalty, I imagine that people viewing it would have readily identified with it.  They would have observed the symbols of wealth and would have possibly recognised the people portrayed. As it is a very skilled painting with incredible detail, I imagine it would have been very well received in it’s day.

My chosen image

My chosen image – a photograph by Tom Hunter  appropriating the Vermeer painting. This has been seen in exhibitions, in newspapers and magazines, in books, possibly on posters advertising exhibitions of the photographer’s work, and online. Art is more available to the masses through mass communication.

Why was it produced?

As part of an exhibition drawing attention to the plight of squatters. In an interview in the Guardian the Tom Hunter says
“I just wanted to take a picture showing the dignity of squatter life – a piece of propaganda to save my neighbourhood.
I took this in 1997, for my master’s degree show at the Royal College of Art. The 17th-century golden age of Dutch painting had had a massive impact on me: the way they dealt with ordinary people, not kings, queens and generals. I thought if I could borrow their style for squatters and travellers, it would elevate their status. In this shot, inspired by Vermeer’s Girl Reading a Letter at an Open Window, my next-door neighbour is reading the possession order.”

Paper cuts

Green-head-1There is something about paper cutting that intrigues me. I think it is the precision needed. The scalpel that must be true. This one, Green Head,  by Elsa Mora is then photographed in such a way as to cast soft shadows and create a less defined profile. The combination of the precise lines and the more blurred is appealing . I like the Adam and Eve -like figures. This was created to illustrate an article in a Canadian magazine.

The artist is an illustrator, creating art by commission for mass media audiences.

Paper cutting is used here in a print advert.0016_right_to_write_poster_a2-03_aotw The 3D effect suggests a fingerprint.