Critical research (under construction)

This page is dedicated to displaying a collection of quotes and notes relevant to my current practice, Theologeion. I consider this a working draft which will help to inform my oral presentation. I am critically locating my practice after I have established my practice. As I mentioned in another post, this feels a bit like I am working backwards: justifying a project after the project has launched. From a research perspective, it’s best to create a hypothesis before creating the intervention. But in photography, one might pursue a project because it’s interesting, but ultimately, the work we create arises from our experiences and feelings. So it’s perhaps fair to do first and ask why later?

In talking about photographers, Susan Sontag states that “a doubt persists about the value of realism which keeps them oscillating between simplicity and irony, between insisting on control and cultivating the unexpected…” location 1481. Sontag goes on to say that the “cult of faster…alternates with a wish to return to a more artisanal, purer past when images when images still had a handmade quality or aura.” location 1463.

Sontag, S. On Photography


11 October 2019

The theologeion is a raised structure from which the gods spoke. The theo in the word theologeion means ‘god’ and the logeion comes from the Greek word logos, which means ‘word’.

There appear to be at least two methods of developing a project: One in which the project idea exists before the photographs are taken– for example, I could think “I would like to explore the experience of older adulthood in rural America”. I would then need to devise a way of capturing the essence of this theme through photography. A second is when the project appears, and the meaning of the project follows. My current project is like the latter: I was drawn to working with miniature figures and launched a project. The challenge for me is finding out the “why” behind what I am doing.

When working with these figurines, such as with the project Ich bin ein Elastoliner, I created a two-sided stage from some scraps of wallboard (gypsum board). The stage is about 12’x12″x 24″. As the stage is taped together, I can take it apart and rebuild to have an open left side or right side. I have used colored plastic gels to line the stage surface and create a colorful backdop, and used small lights to create spots, and background lighting. While I am referring to it as a stage, it hasn’t become clear to me that it is this until a few days ago.

If I am working with tiny figures on a stage, then who am I to these figures? I did a little research into Greek theater-specifically parts of the stage. I was drawn to the term theologeion— the elevated area where actors who were playing gods . As I create scenes with little figures, I am also playing god.

Week 1: Understanding the Client/the brief

23 September, 2019

Researching for the purpose of investigating photographic content has been a bit challenging for me. I am a nursing practice specialist and am responsible for providing information to inform our nursing practice in a health care institution. I am very familiar with nursing practice and health research methods and use professional databases daily. I haven’t been able to use the same methods with my photographic research. I feel like finding artists who have been influencers or created work similar to mines has been mostly by word-of-mouth, or peer recommendation. I have looked for visual art data base but haven’t found one yet.

For my current project, I am currently considering how I can break down my ideas into constiuent parts, then research those parts using my typical methodolgy. For example, I have done some recent work with model dinosaurs and dancers. Today I stumbled onto Joseph Campbell’s work on mythology and dragons. Dragons have persisted in mythology prior to the identification of the dinosaur, though it is considered that the dragon represents that fear of the large lizard that ancient beings might have had.

Frequently, one peice of information leads to more questions and more information. I love that about research. I value other photographer’s work and hope to be able to identify ways to find pertinent work more easily.

Note about postings on the forum: It’s such a bummer when posts recieve no comments. This happened to me this week and I felt badly. The forum is a bit of a social-media site and it feels negative when there is no comment.

Week 1: CityID Brief B:

We received our group assignments this week and I am really excited about workin toward creating a visual strategy for CityID. In preparation, I created a Google doc for our group and populated it with notes from the CityID Brief. I created a What’s App group to help us communicate quickly. Group members were unable to meet- but have scheduled a meeting for next Tuesday.

Site Research and Project Development: The Family Picture

I am intrigued with the concept of ‘seeing the unseen’.  Margaret Heffernan’s 2011 book,  Wilful Blindness, explores the concepts behind why individuals or groups are blind to impending tragedies. In my personal life and in my work as a healthcare practitioner, I have observed situations where something was not right, but, but no-one noticed, and the effected individual had a bad outcome.  I am guessing that many people have had the experience of seeing something – a parent grab a child aggressively, a man lurking, a woman’s frightened glances, and not known what to do. Considering the idea of willful blindness, I wonder if ambiguity, or, uncertainty as to how to interpret or respond to a situation, can lead to the state of being willfully blind.
To explore this concept, I am going to utilize the tableau, or a scene, to express situations where there seem to be activities or things at odds with one another.  For example, there may be parts of a scene that seem totally normal while other parts could be ok, or they could be alarming.

I will be working with my siblings to create an outdoor portrait in the style of a tableau.  The idea is that a group of people are being photographed and seem not to notice that an object is on fire.  Fire, for this particular instance, is relevant as my siblings and I were fascinated by fire when we were young.  Not felonious activity, but we did build small structures and light them on fire.  It was better than TV.


I am inspired by the work of American photographer, Gregory Crewdson (1999), who created large-scale cinematic tableau.  In this work, he uses primary colors, dramatic lighting and odd juxtapositions that inspire discomfort. 

This work will be challenging for me as I have limited equipment and  lighting experience, however, I have a supportive family and a fire extinguisher.

I have done some research on lighting, model and camera position. I have chosen colors, purchased props, coached my siblings, built a table to burn and am ready for the shoot this weekend.

Wish me luck.

The Tableau

I am interested in the idea of the photo made, rather than the photo taken.  In this post I explore the works of three contemporary artists who have created effective photographic tableau.

According to the Tate Gallery, 2019: Tableau is used to describe a painting or photograph in which characters are arranged for picturesque or dramatic effect and appear absorbed and completely unaware of the existence of the viewer.
Jeff Wall, 1993.

The photograph above, Jeff Wall, 1993: A sudden gust of wind (after Hokusai) exemplifies this art form.  The subjects are unaware of the camera as a gust of wind carries away a stream of papers.  The flat lighting, and dramatic positioning of the figures adds to the affect.

Cindy Sherman’s work (1990), Mrs. Claus, features a rather grotesque rendition of Mrs. Claus that, despite looking at the camera, still evokes that lack of awareness of the photographer.

sherman, cindy
Cindy Sherman, 1990

The grotesqueness and surrealism of this photograph seems to arise from the stuffed cheeks and fake wig of the model, the white lighting which directly illuminates the subject and awkward hand placements –as if the model is trying to push herself away from the camera.

crewdson, gregory
Gregory Crewdson, 2007

Gregory Crewdson has created complex, subtle and cinematographic images.  His naturalistic detail and serene demeanor of the model is thrust into the surreal through the use of dramatic lighting.