Category Archives: 08 Photographing the unseen

Exercise: Three Case Studies

For this exercise we were asked look at three Level 3 students work who explored themes that were not necessarily visible. The students were Peter Mansell with his series on Paralysis, Dewald Botha’s Ring Road and Jodie Taylor’s Memories of Childhood.  I could not find Peter’s Level 3 blog – perhaps it was a physical log, but for anyone who is interested in following his work, his MA blog can be seen here.

The brief

All three of these projects are examples of personally driven work but they become universal when we can relate to the feelings they present by visiting our own personal histories.

  • Which of these projects resonates most with you, and why?
  • How do you feel about the loss of authorial control that comes when the viewer projects their own experiences and emotions onto the images you’ve created?

I think the project that resonates the most with me is Jodie Taylor’s Memories of Childhood. My memories of my childhood and youth are very precious to me as I now live in a different country on the other side of the world from where I grew up. The culture in my new country is different although we speak the same language. Our humour and the way we see ourselves differs quite a bit as well. During the twenty years that I have been living in Canada, each and every time I returned to my country of birth I made a point of visiting my old schools, the homes I used to live in, the neighbourhoods to see how much had changed and how much had remained the same. Certain images in Jodie Taylor’s project trigger my own memories and I hear the echoes of the past. The swings in the park: memories of my best friend and I seeing who could swing the highest, who could get level with the cross bar at the top. Taylor’s image of the little alley between two walls brings back memories of playing hide and seek with my friends and even with my children when they were young. Of course her landscape is totally different to what mine was, but because I feel her personal connection it relates to me.

Having just come out of knee surgery and experienced the ‘nuisance’ of immobility for an extremely short while, I can only have the utmost respect and empathy for Peter Mansell and his work. Even so, I am unable to really relate to his experiences. He has very skillfully conveyed his condition and experiences, showing the viewer what it is like to live with such a disability, how complex his life must be.

Dewald Botha’s images are very well composed but feel rather ominous and oppressive to me due to the ever present highway overhead and the thick smog. If this is the impression he wanted to impart to convey his limitations within the Chinese culture and language then I think he has succeeded very well.

I don’t think I would have a problem with the loss of authorial control of my own images. Other viewers’ experiences and emotions will naturally be different to mine and they might read something in my images that I am unaware of myself. It all adds to the richness of the interpretation(s). I think, however, that there is an exception when it comes to photojournalism or documentary images. One would prefer that the viewer’s interpretation be directed in a specific way so that the image is not misconstrued. But realistically people will always put their own spin on an image whether it is an artsy or documentary one.


Botha, Dewald (2012 – 2013). Ring Road [online]. Available from: [Accessed 28 August, 2015]

Mansell, Peter. MA Fine Art Digital [online]. Available from: [Accessed 28 August, 2015]

Taylor, Jodie. Asst 2 – Memories of Childhood [online]. Available from: [Accessed 28 August, 2015]