Cruel & Tender Research


The title of this project was taken from one of the first major photography exhibitions at the Tate Modern. I bought the exhibition book to research and get inspiration for my subject. The cover image is Boy in a Red Cardigan by William Eggleston.

The curators used the works of August Sandler and Walker Evans as the chief axes for the show, as it was felt these practitioners exerted a powerful influence upon modern practice. From there, the curators constructed a pattern of association which extended up to the present day.

Exhibition book / images

William Eggleston

I visited the Eggleston exhibition at The National Portrait Gallery last Autumn. As someone who was just getting to know his work, I wasn’t blown away by the exhibition. Perhaps it was the space used within the gallery, or the arrangement of images on display, but for some reason I felt unfulfilled when I left the gallery.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not dismissing all of the work that was on display. I like his documentary style and asymmetrical compositions. I particularly liked the larger prints, the size alone is impressive for a photograph. As with paintings of these scales, you can really immerse yourself into the image.  One of my favourites was of a lady called Devoe Money, sitting on her rusty sun lounger;  it’s Eggleston’s use of colour, pattern and texture which makes this image.


It is social commentary, which I now realise I am drawn to. Eggleston’s work is of what he sees in the world, his personal perspective, particularly drawn to colours. His jaunty compositions are purposeful but create the feel of a snapshot. The images are composed to include other elements in the background.

Eggleston images – trolley, freezer

Dye Transfer

William Eggleston has been criticized for choosing the complicated and expensive dye-transfer technique for prints of such banal everyday objects. Eggleston uses this process for making prints from his transparencies and color photographs, as it permits him to control the colors individually, and also to exaggerate them according to his intended color emphasis. Originally developed for the production of opaque copy in advertising and magazine printing, this process utilizes water-soluble dyes which, compared with other color printing processes, are extremely durable–an extra bonus for collectors.

The level of richness in colour and hues are only achieved though the dye transfer printing process. Eggleston is famed for having used this technique, which is not commonly used these days as Kodak ceased the production of all dye transfer film and materials in the mid-nineties.

To better understand how this technique works, I came across a photographer simply named, Ctien, who mortgaged himself “to the hilt” and spent it on remaining stockpiles of Pan Matrix film (stored in a large chest freezer), chemicals, dye and paper to allow himself to continue printing this way!

The dyes used in this process are very durable, as they have a good light stability and dark-life expectancy. The text below is taken from his website, he explains how he make dye transfer prints:

Dye transfer printing resembles the mechanical printing process that magazines use to make color pictures. A color printing press uses four separate printing plates, one each for the three primaries (magenta, yellow, cyan) and one for black. Each plate is engraved with a halftone image for one of the colors, which is coated with a thin layer of oil-based ink. The four plates then transfer their ink to the surface of a sheet of blank white paper to make the color pictures. The final picture is not ‘created’ chemically in the paper; it is assembled on its surface from four separate screened color images.

Dye transfer uses three continuous-tone sheet film plates called matrices. The matrices are soaked in water-based cyan, magenta and yellow dyes. The matrices are rinsed clean of excess dye and squeegeed against a sheet of gelatin-coated paper, much like regular photographic paper but without the silver compounds. The gelatin absorbs the dye from the matrix. The result is a continuous-tone dye image on paper.

The details are a bit more involved…

First, I need to separate out each of the individual color images that comprise a color negative. I use red, green and blue filters to enlarge the individual color negative images onto three sheets of Pan Matrix Film.

Pan Matrix Film is a special film that I can process to produce a “relief image”: after I develop and wash the film, the thickness of gelatin left on the film base is proportional to the amount of light that hit the film.

From here on, I can work by ordinary room light. I soak the matrices in “acid-fixing” dyes. A given thickness of matrix gelatin emulsion will absorb just so much acid-fixing dye out of the dye bath. That’s what makes dye transfer possible. The thickness of the matrix relief image is proportional to the original exposure, so the amount of dye carried by the matrix is also proportional. More light means more gelatin, which means more dye in the print.

The red-, green- and blue-exposed matrices go into cyan, magenta and yellow dye baths, respectively. I can adjust the contrast of each dye image by changing the acidity of that dye bath. I have sets of different contrast dyes, much as black-and-white printers have different grades of paper. Sometimes, I even use different contrasts for the different matrices to correct for some unusual color balance problem, like aerial photographs that are too blue in the shadows.

The matrices absorb all the dye they can after soaking for 5 to 10 minutes. I rinse each matrix in 1% acetic acid to remove the excess dye from the surface; because the dyes are fixed (held in place) by acid, they don’t wash out. Incidentally, the large amounts of dilute acetic acid used in the process leave the prints smelling faintly of vinegar for months-to-years after printing. Don’t worry; it’s normal.

Now the matrix is ready for printing. I take the first dyed matrix and squeegee it emulsion-down onto a sheet of the dye transfer receiving paper. The dye molecules migrate from the matrix to the paper. After five minutes, I peel off the matrix; I now have a primary color dye image on the receiving paper and there will be almost no dye left in the matrix. I wash the matrix in hot water, after which I can either hang it up to dry or redye it for another print. I repeat the transfer process for each of the three matrices. When I am all done I have a full color dye transfer print.

But it probably won’t be right. That first print will be too light or dark, too contrasty or flat, and/or off-color. The shadows may not have the right amount of detail, or the highlights may need a little more sparkle. Or etc., etc.

Dye transfer printing provides me with a daunting number of ways to control the appearance of the print. I can use masks when making the matrices to adjust the color balance, color rendition and tone scale of the print. I can control the density and contrast of each matrix individually during exposure and processing. I can adjust the acidity of the dye baths to change the image contrast and density (which looks different from changing the matrix contrast).

I can lighten or darken an image by changing the composition of the acid rinse baths, and I can add dye selectively to shadows or remove it from only the highlights. I can make additional transfers from each matrix to fine-tune the image. I can adjust each primary color image completely independently of the others, and I can use any combination of these effects. Learning how to judge what corrections will take me from a first print to that perfect final one is what being a master printer is all about.

Finally, I must do all of this with meticulous technique:

If I don’t process the matrices with perfect uniformity and consistency, I will get unwanted (and possibly uncontrollable) color shifts or blotches in my prints. Freshly processed matrices are fragile beyond belief; I must work very carefully if I want useable matrices.I must carefully register the three color images. Before squeegeeing down a matrix, I press punched holes in the film over pins set in one end of the transfer easel and then roll the matrix onto the paper starting at the pinned end.I use a roller to press the dye-laden matrix into close contact with the paper. If I roll too lightly, I’ll get dye bleeding into the liquid trapped between the film and the paper giving me blotchy, unsharp prints. If I roll the matrix down too hard, I’ll warp it slightly and get color fringes in the print. Any air bubbles or dust between the matrix and paper prevent the dye from transferring at those spots, making for much retouching and spotting later. I must do everything right while handling large sheets of wet, floppy film and paper.

I am Daniel Blake

This is a film directed by Ken Loache, about a man struggling to get back on his feet following a heart attack. He lost his job and the DWP had him running around in circles. He ends up at the food bank where he meets other individuals who are struggling to survive day-to-day. It is a sad and thought provoking film.

The number of food banks has risen due to the increase in poverty and the “just about managing”.  I visited the food bank in Brentford and took some initial external images with my DSLR.

original external images………….

Nikon FM2

I chose to use a film camera for this project, not only to better understand how they operate but also hoping to create a vintage feel for my images. The film used was a cheap AGFAphoto ISO 200 from Poundland!

I included images of the external surroundings because a) they helped to tell the story as the food bank is located in the middle of a social housing area, and b) the architecture was fitting for the use of film as it helped to retain the vintage feel.


However, I have since questioned whether I would have been better off displaying the 5 images as shown below.  The focus is the rise of demand for Food Banks across the country, the location of the building could be deemed irrelevant? But most importantly, I think they flow better as a set of images with the use of colour and lines.


Still Life research

During this term we discussed the use of the Golden Ratio in art, also referred to as the Fibonacci Sequence. This mathematical pattern is found throughout nature and is used in art to create balance and harmony within a composition. This technique leads the viewer’s eye to the focal point of the image.



Semiotics & Symbolism

Through semiotics, the symbolic meaning of objects allows an artist to communicate a message to the viewer.

Vanitas is a category of symbolic works of art, associated with still life paintings by Dutch artists of the 16th and 17th centuries which contain a collection of objects symbolic of the inevitability of death and the transience and vanity of earthly achievements and pleasures.

This paining Memento Mori by Edwaert Collier (c.1640-c.1707) features a skull and bubbles. Commonly, the skull represents death and mortality. The bubbles are a reminder of the brevity of life and suddenness of death.


Books, musical instruments and maps were used as symbols of arts and sciences. These could also be a symbol of wealth and worldliness or a reminder of the worthlessness of worldly goods and pleasures.

This still life painting by a female Dutch artist, Maria Van Ooststerwijck (c.1630-c.1963), features butterflies and a skull. The hourglass is a moralising message of the brief existence of sensory pleasures.

In Christianity the butterfly is a symbol of resurrection. In vanitas art, it is another reminder of the brevity of life. Other symbolic reminders include flowers and rotting fruit.


Contemporary interpretations

Through my research I came across Paulette Tavormina, a fine-art photographer who takes inspiration from the old masters. Her image below is an appropriation of Juan Sanchez Cotan (c.1560-c.1627), Still life with Quince, Cabbage, Melon and Cucumber.


The two images below are from her Vanitas series. I am drawn the clarity of the bubbles and the smoke of the cuddle, both frozen in motion. An extinguished candle reminds the viewer of the shortness and fragility of life.


Memor Patris (Remembering Father)

In preparation for my composition, I selected items which reminded me of my father, and had also been featured in the research of semiotics. I set up different arrangements of the objects at home.

I wanted to use a black background, not only to create depth but through my research I had been drawn to paintings with dark backgrounds which created a dark mood and made the objects stand out.

For the set up, I had one key light to the left of the camera and a reflector to the right. It was a tight space, so anyone present had to stay alert of any trips or hazards.

This was the part of the project that I found most challenging. Partly, because it was dedicated to my father and I wanted to do it justice, and because I didn’t feel I’d spent enough time considering the composition and perspective of the objects and equipment needed. On reflection, I would have liked to of rearranged the set up of the objects and to include more height and colour.

I was enjoyed the use of different lenses supplied by Zig. For this image I used an 18mm prime lens with manual focus on a crop sensor camera (approx 27mm), this challenged me to get the right focus rather than relying on the camera!

After uploading the images, I selected one with a sharp focus which captured the iridescence of the butterfly. There was a lot of black space within the composition which didn’t balance with the arrangement of objects, so I cropped the image to pull them closer together within a tighter frame.

Due to the iridescence of the butterfly, I chose to print on pearl paper. After cropping, I selected this as my final image due to the clarity and balance of the objects.



Having decided I wanted to base my portrait on The Lady with a Squirrel and a Starling By Hans Holbein the Younger, I set about researching other photographers’ modern interpretations of classical portrait paintings.

Hendrik Kerstens

Kerstens used a plastic bag in the style of a 17th century cap. Titled ‘Bag’, this image won second prize in the 2007 Taylor Wessing Photographic portrait Prize.

Whilst on a visit to New York, he observed the amount of plastic bags given away by shops. He took a humourous stance to highlight the environmental issues surrounded by the use of plastics bags.


His daughter, Paula, is the focus of this project which documents her growing up and captures something of the fleeting moments that fade through childhood. He illuminates her with the characteristic ‘Dutch’ light, from the windows of his atelier in Amsterdam. By using modern objects to create traditional portraits reminiscent of Johnannes Vermeer and Early Netherlandish paintings, he adds a contemporary twist.

Through these images, Kerstens creates a conceptual and humourous dialog between the past and present. His daughter looks directly into the lens, creating an instant engagement with the viewer.





The first generation of Early Netherlandish artists were realist painters who paid close attention to the accurate detail of objects, reflections, light and shadows. In their portraits, the subjects appear more human with a greater complexity of emotions than previous seen.

They introduced three-dimensional perspectives, allowing the viewer to engage with the people, surroundings and objects in finer detail.


The Arnolfini Portrait by Jan Van Eyck


Romina Ressia

A lesser known photographer from Argentina, Ressia has been featured in several fashion magazines. Her work features “anachronisms and juxtapositions that allow to draw a timeline from which to explore human evolution and their behaviour as individuals and as a collective”.


Inspired by the Great Masters Work and photographers like Diane Arbus and Robert Frank. For professional assignments she uses a DSLR and simple setups with up to 3 lights, using a combination of flashlights with continuous lighting.

She describes her photography as “having a stong sociological content with a pictorial aesthetic”. Some of her work will be on display at the upcoming Sony World Photography Organisation Award.

Cindy Sherman

In Sherman’s History Series she recreates portrait images based on Renaissance paintings by artists such as Caravaggio and Giovanni Battista. There is an element of grotesque to these images, which can make the viewer feel uncomfortable.





Studio Shots

After researching the work of other photographers, I wanted to use props to create a contemporary image of a classic portrait. Initially, I used my tablet and a plastic bag to comment on our reliance on technology and consumerism, whilst considering the impact on our environment.

During the shoot, I changed the model and the props. I was keen to use the plastic bag as it retained the humour and a message regarding the problem with plastic. The tablet was replaced with a tulip which gave a nod to the work of the Dutch Masters.

As we had two different shoots happening at the same time in a relatively small studio, there were times when the trigger would set the lights off on the other set and vice versa. I started with one light to the right side of the models face, the added another on the left to light up both sides of the face and then another directed towards the backdrop.

Due to the confined space, I had to stay vigilant with regards to health & safety. The wiring was taped down and anyone present was made aware of other potential trip hazards. As the heat of the lamps increased, extra care was taken whilst handing the light heads.


After presenting the images to class for feedback, the tulip image below was selected due to the engagement of the subject’s eyes with the lens, much like the engagement of Kerstens daughter.

Using Lightroom, I adjusted the white balance and increased the clarity and contrast. This gave the skin tone a warmer tint. For the first time, I successfully managed to smooth the skin using the adjustment tools. Focusing on the facial lines to the sides of the mouth and under the eyes.


Dutch Master 330 (1 of 1)

Following post production, I chose to print the image onto Hahnemuhle Photo Rag due to the papers characteristics closely resembling those of an artists canvas. The thick but smooth paper absorbs the colour well, without compromising sharpness.

When the print arrived, I was very happy with the paper which had a lovely textural feel and painterly quality. Although, if I was to reprint the image, I would tone down the warm tint slightly as the skin appeared a little too pinky/orange.

Contact sheet:




AC 1,2,3,4





The correct use of lighting plays a vital role in an image. It can create form and dimension, texture and tone.

Controlled in a studio environment, you can set up the lighting equipment to create strong contrasts of highlights and shadows, softer light or colour through the use of gels. The position of the light sources will also determine where the shadows fall, the same way the position of the sun creates shadows on your subject when shooting outdoors.

By using a diffuser such as a softbox or umbrella, you can create the appearance of a softer and more natural light. In addition, the light is more forgiving as it softens shadows, glare and the appearance of the model’s skin.

To help us understand the impact of light in an image we have looked to the techniques used by the Dutch Masters and other known painters of the renaissance period. Some of the lighting techniques used in photography were inspired by classical painters such as Rembrandt van Rijn.


The Italian term Chiaroscuro means light and dark. This technique was developed during the Renaissance by painters such as Rembrandt, Leonardo da Vinci and Caravaggio, who used it to create strong tonal contrasts, depth and drama.

This style of lighting is commonly used in Film Noir and black and white photography to create 3D forms. It prevents the lighting from appearing flat. A recent example of this is in Frank Miller’s Sin City films.


The image below by Josh Redman, was on display at the latest Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize exhibition. It has a likeness to Caravaggio’s paintings with the use of the chiaroscuro, the direction of the light above the subject is comparable to his painting of St Jerome.

Rembrandt Lighting

In photography the term Rembrandt lighting is a form of the Chiaroscuro technique, characterised by an illuminated triangle under the eye which reaches in line to the tip of the nose on the shaded side of the subjects face. This technique can be achieved simply with a key light positioned high and to one side, facing the subject’s cheek. A reflector or a fill light is positioned on the opposite side, at half the height of the key light to illuminate the shaded side of the face.

Loop Lighting

Characterised by small shadows to the side of the nose and cheek, which do not join together and slope slightly downwards. The lighting must be positioned above the model’s eye level and towards the side of the face, if positioned further across, this will create a Rembrandt effect as the shadows will meet.


Butterfly Lighting

The lighting is positioned higher, above the models head and to the front of the face. If too high, there is a possibility of the eyes not catching the light which will make the subject appear lifeless.

As I was posing for this example of lighting, I have used one of Louise’s images. You can probably tell, I did a little editing for my profile picture by reducing the clarity and adding a filter!


Split Lighting

This lighting can add drama to your portrait. By positioning the light at least 90 degrees to the side of the subjects face, there is a strong split/contrast of light and dark. Depending on the shape of the subjects face, ideally the light will catch the eye on the shaded side of the face.


Broad or Short?

There are two ways of demonstrating these techniques depending on which side of the face the key light is facing. If the furthest side of the face is lit up, this is called “short” lighting, as the side of the face closest to the camera is shaded. If the closest side is lit then this is called “broad” as the shade falls on the side of the face which is furthest from the camera. I have a round face so short lighting would help to slim it down!

Here are two good examples using Rembrandt lighting, both images were taken by Annie Leibovitz. For portraits, she frequently uses a single light setup with slower shutter speeds to increase the exposure of the surrounding ambient light which helps to lighten the background.

I found this useful lighting guide from Digital Camera World….


The images below were taken during class early on in the project. I had fun experimenting with different perspectives & compositions and particularly like the use of a single backlight, as it creates a more dynamic look.

By using a snoot or barn doors, the light can be concentrated onto a smaller area of the subject. In the of images of Rosemary, she is wearing black which blends into the background making her face stand out in the light but overall the image does appear flat.

For the images of Jason, if we had combined the two lights in the same set up, it would have created more depth by separating the model from the background.






Cruel & Tender


I took this image in Bath last weekend. It got me thinking about the homeless who have dogs for companionship. I have never seen a distressed or malnourished dog with a rough sleeper.

Dogs can offer warmth and comfort during tough times, creating a special bond between two souls that are dependent on each other.

I plan to explore this subject further for the project.



Over the last few weeks I have been looking for a classical portrait painting to interpret in the studio. From the very beginning I was drawn to A Lady with a Squirrel and a Starling by Hans Holbein the Younger.

Little was know about the lady until this century. It is believed to be Anne Lovell, the wife of Sir Francis Lovell who was an attendant to Henry VIII.

It was common practice to use pets in portraits alongside women and children, and it was initially thought that the squirrel was a pet however it was actually a symbol of her heraldry. The starling is thought to be a pun on the location of the family seat at East Harling.

The simple pallet of light and dark tones against the strong blue background, for me, is a refreshing contrast to other traditonal portraits. The light is directed towards her face and chest. There is a small shadow beneath her nose. The shade appears to the side of her cap, then runs down the back of the shoulder and arm to around her hands.

My aim is to create a contemporary interpretation of this image. I have also been looking at the works of Hendrik Kerstens and Romina Ressia. They are both photographers who take inspiration from classical portraits by the great masters and add their modern twist.

paper_roll2 Paper roll, Hendrik Kerstens

bubble_wrap_2 Bubble wrap, Hendrik Kerstens

dsc_8191ret2-jpg-2048x1566_q90 Bubble gum, Romina Ressia


Girl wearing sneakers (sitting), Romina Ressia