The Disney Dogs

This group wrote a lovely story which i have published below. As you can see it’s quite a long story but as they wrote it it just got better and better and really highlights the children’s talents for creativity and imagination- i think it also demonstrates how it’s a fairly hands-off approach to their writing and image editing…

disney dogs

disney dogs 1

Below are some of the additional images from the Disney Dogs shoot- these pictures just make me smile- so much comedy and fun from this group…

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Connect by Disney Dogs
Connect by Disney Dogs

Emotion, by Wild Wolves

I am going to use several of the finished images from the Talking Pictures project which finished at the end of June, to talk about how we made the work. With thanks to the teachers i got lots of the model release forms returned. We worked on the project for approximately 3 months and there’s more information about it in my previous post…

Bearing in mind the project ran from April to June and that is the busiest term for schools it was important to make sure that we developed a way of working that caused the least amount of disruption to the classes. We began with a few lessons to the whole class. The first time i met the children we had a class discussion on the power of photography and the power of the image. I showed them photographs by August Sander, Richard Avedon and Helen Levitt. We discussed the different cameras used by each of these photographers, narrative in photography, reading a photograph, labelling their subjects and in the case of Helen Levitt the morality of using a fake lens on the side of her camera to photograph her subjects without their knowledge. The discussions were robust and the children were engaged.

Many of the images from the shoot day with the Wild Wolves were just wonderful (to be fair all the groups worked hard on their shoot days). The model, C really embraced the role, blocked out what was happening around him and posed without inhibition. I added a selection of images from each group’s shoot to a closed album in flickr and sent it to the teachers. The children and their teachers were then able to choose the one they liked best. They were asked to consider which one best represented their story, and the one with best exposure, composition, and where the model was best posed. This was a democratic process done by the whole class which removed any decisions made through favouritism and also boosted the confidence of the models themselves. It made them feel part of a team working towards a common goal.

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Below is the final edit but i’ve also included a few other layout ideas the children and their teachers had to choose from…The exhibition images were always going to be 20×24″ so we decided on the text taking up a smaller space as it would always be readable at the selected print size.

Emotion, The Wild WolvesFinal edit

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Choice of edit with text on image.                             Choice of edit where text is below image                                                                                                                              

The children began with their practice shots. As you can see the day we worked on the practice shots the Wild Wolves had the luxury of working in a classroom! It allowed us to practice setting up the background stands and practice pose. From my perspective it’s also good practice for me to make sure that i am working to that delicate balance of demonstrating and teaching but still allowing the children full creative control.

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A few of the practice shots- looking at angle of view, crop, expression, colour cast, location and camera practice.

This images demonstrates how the Wild Wolves worked. All the group members took turns each at being the main photographer. As you can see this image was taken by a group member. I am demonstrating to E how to hold the reflector (most of the children found this to be the most boring job)! This image also demonstrates how the photographs can be taken anywhere with the right kit- in this case some cheap stands and black background. As earlier stated, space is at a premium in every school i have ever worked in so it’s better to work outside to avoid being shifted every 50 minutes which is never long enough to get set up. Working with natural daylight is also one of the best sources of light which adds to the quality of the image- finally look at all that space! No tables or cupboards or chairs to tidy away!

The Wild Wolves at work
Showing E how to use the reflector (this is, apparently the most boring job)!

Man Ray’s letter to Knud Merrild


I have been doing some reading on Man Ray recently- he is an artist known to most photographers for his pioneering Rayograms and solarisation and if, like me you trained in photography pre-digital days you would have experimented with these techniques in the darkroom.

The quote above is from a letter Man Ray wrote to an artist friend who’s work he greatly admired. Knud Merrild was a Dutch post-surrealist and modernist artist who ended up in California the same time as May Ray (who fled Paris in August 1940). Merrild’s work was bought and admired by several great artists and writers but he never gained the fame and notoriety of his contemporaries. He suffered a heart attack and returned to Denmark where he died in 1954.

Recently there has been much press about the cut in arts funding across the whole of the UK and It’s got me to thinking about how little the arts are valued within modern society- I mean good art- art that makes you think and feel emotion and want to do and try harder in your own practice- not the insipid zombie art people buy to match their sofas, or the kind of art that is all about the ego of the artist (I still long for the day when we have a row of plaster cast dicks from all of the well-known artists still alive lined up on pedestals in order of size from small to large and the largest one gets to be ‘top artist of the world’).

I like this quote because it offers hope and that is something all artists need to keep going- without hope there is nothing as an artist. I know we need it across every facet of life but it is the one thing that keeps me going- the idea that the ‘thing’ I am creating at that present moment will give me satisfaction and, in turn, perhaps inspire others, provoke an emotion in them or change how they think or feel about a certain something.  But I also like the fact that Man Ray uses the word ‘illusion’ as if Merrild is creating some sort of magical world (or personality). Like a great author, Man Ray is lost in Merrild’s work- the illusion has taken hold and is all-encompasing to the point of obsession. I’ve had a few art obsessions – most recently travelling to Vienna to see Klimt’s The Kiss and while there discovering the Striking Heads of Franz Xaver Messerschmidt- all these journeys in art, where just reading a few lines about a certain artist takes me deeper and deeper in to a journey.

But back to Man Ray and his love of Merrild’s work. We do not compliment each other enough or reward ourselves with a moment of happiness before moving on to our next creative obsession. It doesn’t matter that the world has not sat up and taken note of our latest creative outpouring. What is important is the journey and the acknowledgement from those who get it- whose opinion is treasured (not friends- they will always tell you they like it with little critical discussion). I can imagine Merrild’s happiness at receiving this letter from Man Ray and the impact it potentially had on his work- how such a letter could push his work on further and inspire him to keep going.