Category Archives: college projects


… does not stand for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder but for Post Three Year Student Degree. It is over, and I have experienced a bout of PTSD. Or maybe it was more like a BO? That does not stand for body odour, despite the sweat that was shed, slaving away on shoots and visual diaries and submissions but is BO for Burn Out. In any case, I did neither feel like taking any pictures nor writing up how the grad show went. If it weren’t for my little iPhone 365 project, I wouldn’t have engaged in *anything* visual at all, save opening my eyes in the morning… But it is time to lay the ghosts at rest, to look truth in the face and to do what must be done – catch up with what happened, is happening and will happen in the future.
The grad show was meant to be the final culmination of three years of academic obsession with photography. For the past nine months we worked on projects that were going to be shown as our final project in the show. In hindsight it is safe to say that this was the most professional and most intense project attempted so far. And even though I had chosen the project myself and was genuinely interested in my own thesis for the project, I could not help but feel bored and frustrated with it by the time the grad show arrived. 
I just about managed to make a selection of images and half-heartedly decide how to print them. I spent a fortune on that – which I shouldn’t have but felt obliged to. And all this knowing, that my project wasn’t going to win any flowerpots there… Never mind – been there, done that. And here’s the proof:
Actually doesn’t look too bad in this image. Postcards and business cards at the ready – and a few of them were taken, so that was nice. But I am sooo ready to move on from this. My attention span is simply too short for any long-term stuff.
Moving on!!!

Last Orders

prints? check
tape? check
scissors? check
screwdriver? check
ladder? check
measuring tape? check
business cards? check

eeek, hold on, where are my postcards???

Right, we are nearly there, the exhibition will be set up from tomorrow, and I am getting my kit together. While college supplies the little “sundries”, we have to bring the hardware in. And other bits like business cards and postcards in case we want to put those out.

Which reminds me that I should give the postcards a quick airing here. I was a bit late in my order this time round, but made use of the fast track order on Vistaprint. The 7-day-express order was over-punctual and made it to me within 5 days of ordering. As usual, the quality of it was perfectly adequate. What I really like about them is that you get a free b/w print on the back of the postcards, making them look really professional and also making them usable as replacements for business cards. 

I re-used my book cover design for my postcards. That was actually done for laziness as it was a smaller file to upload than the original printed composite. 

 Bring it on.

Blood, Sweat and Tears

Alright, submissions are in. Exam has been sat. Time to breathe? No! Now the final push is upon us. We are gearing up to our graduation show. The culmination of three years’ worth of critical evaluation, practical experience and theoretical instruction. *um*
As mentioned previously, I had no idea really how to present my final work. Another weakness of mine? Nah, not necessarily so. I am ok when it comes to presentation despite not being a graphic design person. But I have seen enough exhibitions to know what works and what doesn’t.
Now, I initially settled on my project for two reasons: I am interested in interior photography and can see myself working with the speciality, therefore I wanted a project that would force me to expand my (technical) knowledge of interior photography and simultaneously allowed me to build a portfolio with images from that area. Secondly I had finally come to terms with the fact that I am no fine art photographer but have more of a documentary style. Hence I wanted a proper non-art project in order to do what I do best. And I wanted to use the large format camera. Oh, that’s three reasons. 

Our two weapons are fear and surprise…and ruthless efficiency…. Our *three* weapons are fear, surprise, and ruthless efficiency…and an almost fanatical devotion to the Pope…. Our *four*… no… *Amongst* our weapons… Amongst our weaponry… are such elements as fear, surprise… I’ll come in again. (Thank you, Monty Python!)

 The trouble in the end was that there were more photos to use than space available at the exhibition. Cos what is the point of a comparative study of canteens if you only show three out of nine??? It was actually the cover design of my book that gave me the idea of using a grid composite as my exhibition work. And thus I finally present my hard work; literally drenched in blood (from scratching my shin on the LF camera), sweat (from carrying the gear around) and tears (from making silly mistakes that demanded re-shoots)… 

The images are at the printers’ and being printed as we speak write. All that remains now is to keep calm and carry on. Exciting times… 

A Word on Editing

That is my word on editing.
Could have also said: “Thank Cod, it’s over.” But that would have been four words. 
Seriously now, editing is my big red rag! All could be so easy if you didn’t have to edit. I love shooting, but what happens afterwards is just soooo booooring. And it’s not even that I think all my images are perfect and usable. Far from it. I just find that the fun is in the “click” not in the “pick”. 
Anyhow, needs must, and I have developed a certain process for dealing with this part of the work in progress. And an essential part of it is the tangible elimination process. For which I print out my images cheapo cheapo by way of a photo kiosk in the local chemist. (For my Hollywood filmstills the images came out exactly right – 8×6″ glossy. Pretty sharp. But didn’t cost an arm and a leg. Leave the limbs for later when the final edit has to be printed!)
With the images printed – and I didn’t limit myself there; I printed everything that I felt was actually usable as a final image – I then got the background out that the images were going to be displayed on and played with them there.
Yup, an old curtain is the backdrop…
First step is to throw everything on the backdrop. Then you sort them thematically – all portraits of person A, all stills of the strangulation, all full length portraits of person B etc. And thus the fun begins – a proper look at which image has the best lighting, which perspective works best. The difficult bit really is to find the required number of images and be consistent in terms of quality. Nothing stands out more than the one sub-standard image in a row of otherwise acceptable pictures. 
In this case I also had to take into account whether the images were landscape or portrait orientation. Bummer – that’s something I tend to forget when shooting and therefore do not necessarily shoot the same set-up in both orientations. In the end I managed to get my eight images and finalised my story-board.
Phew – I am so happy editing is over…


I get sidetracked so easily. There I was, editing for my Hollywood filmstills the other day, when all of the sudden I had the great idea that my display/presentation needed a poster to go with it. Fair enough – but I launched into a great big graphic design side track… 
I guess I am really just fooling myself that what I am doing is really necessary. One should be finalising the edit, print the images, prepare the album and experiment with the presentation. And yet I distract myself with making a movie poster for my imaginary film that my project provides the stills and promo pics for. Those film posters really got me inspired and so I started playing in Ps to get a painted effect onto one of the images that I had taken. I came up with a whole storyline, basically, invented names for the supposed actors (maintaining my models’ privacy) and director.
The gif shows the development of my poster. I had settled on the teal background gradient at first because it seemed to complement the skin colours of the sitters. But it is actually quite a cold colour. Also, since I was presenting this on my gold fabric backdrop, then the teal doesn’t really work very well. I tried it with a gold-ish colour instead and that worked much better, I think. 
I am actually quite happy with my poster, even though the paint effect is not really strong enough, methinks. But to spend even more time on it seemed a bit OTT. Never mind that I then spent even *more* time making this gif *dooooh*…

Mock Displays

Would you like a glimpse into the other project I was working on for college. It has already long been handed up, and interestingly – it turned out to be such fun to produce!!
Once the edit had been done, that is. Editing is usually my big weakness – I find it extremely hard to settle on the required number of shots and can not see the wood for the trees when it comes to quality of my own images. Presentation, however, is something I am pretty quick and decisive on. 
In the case of this project I had been trying to recreate 1940s film stills. The result was actually really good – well, in my own humble opinion that is… 
The plan was to show these images in the context where they would have sat years ago. I am probably an old fogey for being able to remember (and being old enough) that I know these display cases that used to be outside the cinemas in my youth – you know, sort of pinboards behind glass, in which the cinema owners pinned stills from the film on show, along side promotional posters and pictures of the film… Very old-school and nostalgic. But heck, retro is all vogue!!!
Firstly, though, Sonja had to make a suitable backdrop for the display – all shiny, luxurious texture it was meant to be. More or less on a whim I picked up a piece of A1 foamboard at the printers’, not even knowing whether it was suitable, and then played around with it at home. I looked through my drawer of material and crafts stuff and found an old curtain that was actually shiny gold!!! Perfect. So I basically just covered my foam board and then pinned the pictures onto that with proper pins. Aner here is the result of the Swedish jury:

The poster takes centre-stage and then the stills are arranged around the poster. I should really also add a little printed sign that says “film showing at 8 pm” or something like that.

Ah such fun. I loved this project. And maybe there will be more to come…

Book Making

I am not veering into betting here, but as part of my course I am currently maing a book as part of my submission to college. Or rather – I have already made my book. It is finally here, the book is here. I was getting rather nervous. Tomorrow is hand-in and I have not got my hands on my submission yet. This afternoon I checked the tracker and could not believe when I read that the status was “delivered”. I had only come home about an hour beforehand and there was nothing on the hall table. But then I just found it downstairs in the hall. *phew* The accountants must have taken it. 

The book is nice with its sleeve and I like the size of it. Slightly disappointed by the lacklustre colours, though – Hm, I may be overly critical. The colours on the last two pages actually do pop quite nicely (should’ve put that canteen in the book earlier on…)

Book design is actually quite easy these days. You can find offers of varying quality and – subsequently – varying price levels all over the internet. Especially the cheaper offers are good enough quality to use for a print-up of holiday snaps or a little book present. If you want a professional look and feel, I would advise you splash out and get it done by a service that offers a choice of papers and sizes rather than the usual “one size/paper fits all”.

I really like my cover design. And I am thinking to myself that I might actually present the work at the exhibition like that. Just one large image, photo printed, dibond. Also, am thinking that I would love to use this as a postcard for the exhibition. Must get that done asap.

But worst of all, though: OMC – I have just spotted two stupid silly akjgqasxxao TYPOS in my artist statement which prefaces my Blurb book. In Bridget Jones’s words: “F*********************ck!!!!”
Will I get the “non-native speaker” allowance? Too late to do anything about it now, but I am very, very disappointed with myself.

Under Pressure

*dumdumdumdadadumdum… dumdumdumdadadumdum…* Thinking of Bowie here. And that is actually an altogether far too cheerful start to this post than reality affords. The pressure is mounting. And if it weren’t for my fellow prisoners students, I probably would step into the usual trap of leaving things to the last minute. 
Hail, hail Social Media – it is thanks to the updates on Facebook that I am keeping track of what my classmates are up to. They are posting links to their portfolios in progress, celebrating the finalising of their edits, giving insights into their finished books. And they are very successful in evoking a massively guilty conscience in yours truly…
Picture content bears no relation to blog post. I just like it.
Whatever, I am at least one assignment down at this point. I have not only designed the business cards for my future photo business *ahem* and also built my own website but I have sent off my portfolio specific photo project for printing. As mentioned in a previous post, I concentrated on interior photography – kind of in line with my final photographic project. While the shoot had been finalised yonks ago, the mode of presentation yet had to be decided on. I finally came to that decision last night, sat down and redesigned my project there and then and sent it off to be printed. 
Photobook production is always a bit of a pig in a poke. It is extremely hard to tell whether the finished product is going to look and feel the way you envisage it. This depends on choice of format, paper, and colour reproduction. A lot of variables that may mean that I have just thrown about 26 Euro out of the window. If all goes pear-shaped, I will have to have a contingency – reprint my design as individual tearsheets and have them bound in the printer’s.
Rambling today, sorry. Multi-tasking is taking its toll. Or maybe it is just the effect of Friday the 13th. Good luck to you all.

Go and Shoot

Another weekend, another canteen shoot. This time it took me into a Dublin department store, courtesy of another one of my lovely friends in photography, J___. After shooting my main 4×5 shots, I preceded with my usual digital exploration of the places in question. And one shoot in J___ commented: “Oh, you are like me, you do just go and shoot.”
What you see below is a typical example of my policy of non-intervention. When I go on shoots for my canteen project or any other documentary-style shoot, I never touch my environment. I do not change anything around me. Just as my friends get me warts and all, I also shoot warts and all: I believe that reality can only be reproduced adequately if we do not intervene with its shape and form. Mind you, I am aware that me making a picture is already a form of intervention. Just the act of pressing the shutter release will result in only an interpretation of reality but not representation of reality. 
The truth of the matter is, of course, that I am a lazy slob. I just don’t like getting my fingers dirty and as a rule I do as little cleaning and tidying as I can get away with. Especially in places that I am not responsible for. Just kidding! I am of course a textbook German Hausfrau (although I wouldn’t really recommend anyone to eat from my kitchen floor… my standards have slipped after 13 years of life in Ireland…)! But when I am shooting documentary, prettying the environment up would alter its essence, would mean that I am interfering with its message.
Yes, I could have made this shot more symmetrical. I could have moved the two stools that are half visible at the left and right of the image. I could have taken the salt cellar from the left table and moved the table from the foreground. But messiness is a sign of life, of a place being lived in and used. This is a working canteen and not a showroom for canteen furniture. 
I like messy. It’s real. And so am I. (On both accounts.)

Curiosity Killed the Cat…

No! Curiosity drives the photographer! Don’t you think? 
I was already thinking along those lines when I was shooting at the last location for my college project on staff canteens. It took me into the canteen of a well-known British department store, located in a large shopping centre on the outskirts of Dublin. It was really quiet in there, people obviously not shopping but home after work, because it was already after 6.30 pm. The shop is open until 9 pm, though. But being in a quiet shop wasn’t what thrilled me . What I loved was being allowed to look behind the scenes, however mundane they may be. In this case it meant I was allowed to go through the “staff only” door and into the administrative and logistic vaults.
There is nothing special about the “behind-the-scenes” – if anything it looks worse than the front of house: no natural light, endless corridors, no fancy adornments on walls. What is special is seeing something that is usually hidden. (Ha, you could say that this is interior porn, I guess *rofl*. Rather hardcore, though… ) But if you are a curious cat then that is exactly the attraction – being allowed into spaces that are usually closed: warehouse areas, administrative offices, staff canteens, meeting rooms, catering kitchens, staff corridors…
Being a photographer gives you a reason and an excuse to go, to be anywhere. Because as a photographer you are a documentary maker – and noone ever questions that, as long as you have the camera to prove it ;-). You can follow your own interests and ask to get into places that are otherwise closed to you. And the added bonus of photographing such spaces is the inherent possibility that you may show what you have seen to others by way of your photography… and therefore satisfying other people’s curiosity in turn.
And so I am heading off to another shoot this morning. Today I am going to shoot the staff canteen of Dublin Bus, again a place that I am quite curious about. I am sure it will not be as fancy as the corridor above. But fancy isn’t needed at all – I am not looking for beauty. I am only craving to satisfy my curiosity, curiosity junkie that I am…