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Professional Contexts Blog

Kelly O'Brien Workshops

9 March

Within this blog post, I will be documenting the process of creating our collective, following the workshop lead by Kelly O’Brien today. I do think that it is really great that she is coming in and giving us something to focus on alongside our final major projects as it means that we are creating purely for the enjoyment of it. The work in Kelly’s presentation focused on documentary which was pushing against tropes and expectations and with documentary being an area I have more recently been hooked onto with my practice, I found the presentation to be very interesting.

Much like her own work, we discussed themes of absence and the invisible and how they can be used to fuel imagery as tools of perception, rather than focusing on hindrance. We also explored the benefits and challenges of collectives and the creative outcomes produced by others.

We were set a short assignment to complete over our two hour break which I found quite difficult as that was hardly any time to work on something to then share with others. The task was to write down a memory, go off and have lunch and then come back and make an image in response to the text.

Feedback I received on my image was that it is quite playful and child-like, with the suitcase looking like it is eating me. I could easily take the work further by again hiding in places but doing it quite obviously. I do think that this is a good idea but I have already learnt that self-portraiture is not enjoyable for me, but I do like the idea of focusing on the child-like games I would once do and thinking about how I can show these through imagery. Nostalgia was a definite theme within all of the photographs we shared to the group and there was a lot of work connecting to people’s grandparents. Considering these themes, as a group we now need to organise how to present our different ideas moving forward, whether we will work as a whole collective or break off into smaller groups.

The 19th of April is the deadline for the work to be made and for us to really organise ourselves. We plan to meet as a group weekly, working on our own ideas separately and then binging them together.

Here are a list of collectives I think look quite interesting:

7 April

I have been quite unsure on where to go with my project for the collective and how I can display these child-like recollections of play, but when helping out my dad at his allotments, it sparked an idea as I used to play outdoors here a lot. I chose to write a project statement before actually taking the photographs to gain a clear idea of what I will be doing, so that the work stands alone from my Glass Houses project which was about the pandemic.

Where the fairies live was made in the same place as‘Glass Houses’ which I produced a year ago, when the cases of COVID-19 were at it’s peak. At this time, I observed the time and care put into nurturing these plants and attending to the delicate and fragile was not just something I observed within the walls of the garden; it was everywhere.

As we descent into spring again, there is more to be done at the gardens, so I have been helping out with potting the seedlings and during my time there have been reflecting on all that has changed in this space, compared to how it looked when I would spend time here playing outdoors. Years ago, my grandma was able to help in the gardens, her dog Jess would be running around and me and my brother would run around causing havoc, but most of the time now my dad is spending his evenings and weekends there alone.

I shot the project with my camera at hip-level, like the view a child has of the world, looking at hiding-places and other child-like activities that I feel a sense of nostalgia when thinking about them. I have fond memories of playing within this large space surrounded by beautiful flowers, it is where my Grandma told me that the fairies lived.

11 April

Today I took some photographs over 2 shoots, so I was able to review the images from the first shoot and make improvements upon return. I bought a prism and some multicoloured tulle material to go over the lens. I found the prism to not be very effective at all, but the tulle was a great success. I was able to scrunch and fold the fabric over itself for different effects and held it in place with a hair bobble over the lens. I was actually quite shocked that this worked as I was not expecting it to! It created the effect of aged imagery which i thing is really interesting as it ties in with our overall theme of nostalgia. I chose to not edit the images as I would like to keep the authenticity so simply turned them into jpegs. My next steps are to produce some cyanotypes of different flowers and leaves I found in the walled gardens. I have not made any cyanotypes since first year and I am really looking forward to giving them a go again! To match the colour scheme of these images, I think I will turn the scans of the cyanotypes into black and white to make the series more cohesive.

13 April

Today I made some cyanotypes. This was the first time I had made them since a workshop in first year and whilst being difficult at times, I enjoyed the process. I used leaves and flowers I picked up at my family's allotment I did a test sheet, but I made 10 prints which of course took a while so the weather changed over this period too. I struggled with the wind too moving objects around. Eventually, I held the objects down by placing a plastic wallet on top and weighing it down at the top and bottom to hold everything in place, but unfortunately I only thought of this on the last two prints. I scanned in the three most successful and turned them black and white, but plan on using just two of these in my final selection, keeping the photographs as the main focus. Cyanotypes are something that I will likely make more of in the future as I do enjoy making botanical works.

19 April

Unfortunately, only three of us showed up to the final workshop with Kelly, but three others had sent over their work, so there will be more to put into the zine. Kelly is starting out in zine production, so will make our projects into a zine for us, her making a master copy for us to individually alter ourselves.

A photo zine is a tool that photographers can use to tell a visual story, to inform an audience about a specific topic or issue, to showcase and an idea, or simply create a preview of an ongoing project.

They could be hand-made books, be experimental and are typically self-published or printed and affordable and accessible. Like ours, they are often an outcome of a collective as they are an effective way for artists to show work, coming from the DIY scene.

You could make a zine for your work to take printed form, make your images tangible, share your work with the wider community and get immediate feedback and they can easily be passed around. Essentially, all that you need is paper, scissors and a ruler, but other useful tools may be a nice selection of papers, a long neck staple, a bone fold and needle and thread. I have decided to buy Lewis Bush’s £5 guide on zine binding as a guide for if I do chose to make a zine myself.

The process of making a zine is as follows:

  1. Figure out your content and style

  2. Decide how to tell your story through photography

  3. Select your photos and make your final edit

In this instance, we are the makers and Kelly is the curator of our stories.

By next week, I should send 10 images to Kelly, including some more of my cyanotypes. Have these saved at 300dpi, saved as a tif, titled YOURNAME01 and so on.

20 April

Maja Daniels is a relevant photographer to my work. Her work has links to fictional worlds, it all looks very mystical.

Elf Dalia is set in rural Sweeden forest lands and has a narrative surrounding witchcraft and folklore. The project is beautiful but is quirky and obscure. Daniels considers the place she is living in now in a romanticised sense, due to its past stories of magic happenings. She uses film in creative ways such as under-exposing and using expired film. I think it is clear that she is influenced by the outdoors and the time she spent outdoors as a child.

The Cottingley Faries work by Elsie Wright and Frances Griffiths is a classic body of work made about faries and one of the most famous hoaxes. The creators were 9 and 16 at the time in 1917, they borrowed their father's camera to "prove' to him that there were faries in their garden, with a photograph at the time being heavily seen as fiction, they had many people fooled into believing that the faries were real as they had no way of proving that they were fake. I really like that the plans of a 16 year old girl had so many adults fooled.


Lerman, M., 2020. Maja Daniels: Storytellers - LENSCRATCH. [online] LENSCRATCH. Available at: <> [Accessed 20 April 2021].

Warner, M., 2019. Elf Dalia by Maja Daniels | 1854 Photography. [online] 1854 Photography. Available at: <> [Accessed 20 April 2021].

Images by Maja Daniels and Elise Wright

Kelly is in the process of putting together the zine at the moment, so I am not able to include the finished piece before the hand-in. I am really looking forward to seeing the outcome and how she decides to show each of our projects from the text and images that we sent to her.

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