Photography in Context, Site Specific Brief

Photography in Context

Site Specific Brief:

Site-specific photography is a style of photography that looks at particular places of importance to the photographer.

Photography in context.

“Site Specific Brief (personal practice) 40%

Building on previous experience and concerns, your task is to make a piece of work, which integrates your personal interests with an assigned site in Coventry. You will need to download a map, a slice of Coventry from the 250MC moodle home page. Please be mindful that other students may choose to use the same section of map.

To help clarify your personal response, you are encouraged to research your site fully before you start taking photographs. Consider using local social and cultural history, myths and/or the landscaped geography as starting points.

Your project needs to be lens based but there are no restrictions about which direction you develop your project; it has been specifically designed to encourage your own personal interests and direction. However, it needs to be original to you. You are advised to use this flexibility as an opportunity to explore your own photographic direction and investigate an area of photography, which interests you. The presentation of your project should be appropriate to its development.

The final submission for your site-specific brief is November 25th. You will need to formally present your final assignment on this date. Failure to present your work, will affect your final grade. In additional to which you will need to evidence your ongoing research on your blog and write a summative 300 word reflective statement about your assignment.


I set out to integrate my personal interests in photography and working on a site-specific task on Coventry. Before I began the project I researched the site fully, visiting the Herbert Gallery and the Market Heritage stall for an overview of the history of the city, considering local social and cultural history and myths as starting points.


Brain storm…

Brainstorm by Jenny Stonely

Brainstorm by Jenny Stonely

History of Coventry…

Visiting “The Herbert Gallery”…

When researching for my site-specific project, the class decided to visit the Herbert Gallery. Whilst at the Herbert it seemed appropriate to visit the history exhibition about Coventry. It was great to view all the different sections and to take in and absorb what Coventry is all about. Two pieces in the exhibition captured my attention in particular. One was in the “Moving in, Mixing in” corner, which looked at migrants who came to Coventry. The other was in The Victorian section, entitled “Death and Disease”. Whilst I walked round the gallery I saw many children interacting with the displays and their parents either playing with their children or reading the information they found interesting and reiterating information to their children. The whole exhibition was full of attractions for both adults and children; a great family visit.

The first object I found interesting was the photograph of a migrant’s family before they moved to Coventry. This was found in the “Moving in, Mixing in” section of the exhibition. The photograph was displayed on the side of a suitcase. This was a particularly interactive part of the exhibition. The suitcase was on rollers like a draw, this was then labeled telling the viewer to look inside. This is great for children as they find interacting and playing an appropriate way to learn. The information for this section was displayed in and around the other objects. A general explanation was given about the area, explaining, “People from across the world have made Coventry their home. They have absorbed and enriched aspects of local life and culture”. To get the viewer to explore the objects on the suitcases they were instructed by a label saying, “Memories of home, Pull out to see the things people brought to remind them of their homeland”. There were also more specific labels such as the label that was on the pull out suitcase along with the photograph, which read, “This photograph belonged to Mr Byer, it shows his family in Barbados. I appreciate that this exhibition is limited space, however I do feel that the information given is slightly lacking. I walked away still wondering, How did this family travel here? What was their journey like? These questions are not answered, however, the viewer is given the option to “find out more about the history of refugees to Coventry in the Peace and Reconciliation gallery”.

The second object that caught my attention was in the Victorian section entitled “Death and Disease”. Death is experienced in different ways, depending on culture and historical age. Here death is looked at in the Victorian age, it was common to photograph the dead. Here a mourning broach is displayed; the first broach encapsulates a photograph of the deceased, his mourning family would have worn this broach. Whereas the second broach holds a lock of hair. The information given did not cover enough for me personally. I felt that I was still asking questions… What was the meaning of this object? How did this person die? Would everyone who died have been mourned in this way? The only labeling given was a general introduction to “Death and Disease”, and then a very brief instruction to each object in the cabinet. I felt that the cabinet was an inappropriate way to display these objects, the lights from above reflected in the glass of the cabinet making it difficult to view what was displayed. The labels for each object were also displayed quite a distance from the objects themselves. I found it complicated at first to match up the labels to the objects. This object was displayed in a way that only adults would show interest in it. There were no interactive parts and the labeling was confusing.

I felt that comparing and contrasting the two exhibiting styles was interesting. This historical gallery is appropriate for family visits. I saw many children interacting, and adults enjoying the experience as well.  I found that my peers were also engaging with the exhibition; the gallery is designed with all ages in mind.

Having been to the Herbert Gallery, I feel I have a deeper understanding of Coventry’s history. I also understand further how to exhibit for different audiences, such as the interaction between children and the gallery, whereas adults tend to read more. The adults gather more information than their children, therefore engaging with their children and telling them what they are interacting with. This visit to the Herbert has supplied me a foundation to start my site-specific project on Coventry.

Market Heritage Stall:

Visiting the heritage stall gave me a general overview of the history and stories surrounding Coventry; this was helpful as I didn’t know much about the city because I have only lived here for a year as a student.

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I am inspired by Tom Hunter …

‘Tom Hunter uses newspaper headlines and stories he has heard from the area he lives in to create a poetic response. His work tells the viewer a story about Hackney in a way they haven’t necessarily heard before. Tom Hunter (Wainwright, 2003) states, “I was trying to get people to look at the urban landscape, for people to look at my friends and the way they live and to see that it was quite beautiful and worth having a second look at”. His work shares similarities to Thomas Hardy’s novels. For example both blend newspaper headline stories into their work, they create an insider’s view. He has lived in Hackney for many years and has experienced many of the subjects he photographs; this gives him the knowledge of Hackney’s community that he requires to photograph from an insiders point of view. Levi Strauss (2003a) discusses this topic whilst looking at Salgado in “In Between the Eyes Essays on photography and Politics Aperture”, Strauss believes that Salgado was so successful at photographing his subject because he understood as he had grown up in a similar environment; thus making his work less external than others. What can be drawn from this is that photographers need to understand and absorb. They become part of the landscape themselves; it is only then that their images will show the true meaning that they want to display; thus creating a platform whereby the viewer will feel truly engaged…

Tom Hunter is an insider looking out exploring his site-specific landscape of Hackney and exhibiting it to an outsider. The photographer controls how the audience will see and feel about this landscape; the style of their work will alter the viewer’s (audiences) interpretation of that place. They have the ability to shape our thoughts and feelings of the site they have chosen for their work. The way in which a photographer decides to respond to an area will depend on their starting point and how they feel about the landscape and why they are personally interested in it.’

Jennifer Stonely 250MC Photography in context, Assignment 1 (Essay)

'The Way Home' by Tom Hunter (click to see link)

‘The Way Home’ by Tom Hunter (click to see link)

Coventry Newspaper Headline of interest:

I am looking at a narrative attached to a place, looking at what has happened (a local event). Using Tom Hunter as inspiration to create a dramatic story telling scene.

Headline from Coventry Observer (click to see link)

Headline from Coventry Observer (click to see link)

Map 6 Leisure centre (Swimming):

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Map 6

Google maps;

Coventry Leisure Centre

Coventry Leisure Centre

-Google maps satellite view

Coventry Leisure Centre

Coventry Leisure Centre

Technique: Underwater Photography…

I have taken a few underwater portraits before, these have inspired me to take underwater photography further. I am drawn the the challenge and interesting light patterns and distortions that underwater photography creates, and I want to explore this further.

Underwater portrait by Jenny Stonely

Underwater portrait by Jenny Stonely

Gallery of Inspiration:

Here are a few images that I sourced to inspire my ideas on underwater photography.

Mood board…

Gregory Crewdson, Brooke Shaden, Alban Grosdidier, Dark Beauty Magazine, CoCo,  are my key inspiration for this project. Here are a few images from the above mood board that are of particular interest to my work…

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by Gregory Crewdson (click to see link)

Pre-visualiation is important in Gregory Crewdson’s imagery. He has carefully thought out every detail so that he can control it, and then photograph the scene he has created. He work looks like a film set, yet he creates still images. Here he has been inspired by “Ophelia”, which is why I chose to look at this image in particular. His images are rich in detail, this is what makes his work effective. Whilst creating my own imagery I shall keep Crewdson in my mind, his work is planned first, this is the first step I shall take in my work…planning.

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by Brooke Shaden (click to see link)

Brooke Shaden…

“She began creating self-portraits for ease and to have full control over the images, and has since grown into a self-portrait artist. Self portraiture for her is not autobiographical in nature. Instead, she attempts to place herself within worlds she wishes we could live in, where secrets float out in the open, where the impossible becomes possible.” (

The use of fabric underwater is something I am drawn to. For my images fabric could show the struggle underwater, and the feeling of being dragged down. I want to experiment and explore the use of fabric, as seen here in Brooke Shaden’s image.

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Drowning Installations by Alban Grosdidier (click to see link)

Alban Grosdidier has inspired me to think about the presentation of my work. Here he has created huge installations/prints shown outside, people walking past are immediately drawn to them because of their size. The drowning photographs are simple yet extremely effective, the water motion shows the terrifying feeling of drowning. I will think about my own presentation later in the project, this is an important thought to keep in mind.

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by Romi Burianova on Dark Beauty Magazine (click to see link)

This image by Romi Burianova makes the woman appear elegant, fragile, and ethereal. The material is flowing and ghost like in the water. The pose is important in this image, the way that the model is lying in the water adds to the aesthetic of the image. The unusual pose draws the viewers eye in closer… how is she able to hold this pose? When photographing underwater I will remember to tell my model what I require. It is going to be difficult to communicate whilst underwater, so I will have to discuss with them prior to the shoot, what I want from them. I will then discuss how I can communicate a few hand signals for when we are underwater. This will help to capture the images I require, without too much time being wasted.

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by Elena Kalis on CoCo (click to see link)

Elena Kalis uses another unusual pose, here the model is almost upside down. I shall plan my shoot, and think about possible ways that I could display my model to show my ideas about drowning. I like the peaceful look of this image. The girls eyes are closed, as she slowly drifts to the bottom of the water. She doesn’t appear to be struggling… perhaps she is already dead or unconscious. I like the idea of the image feeling quiet, maybe I will create a series of images where at the beginning they are full of panic, and water movement, and then at the end when the boy has given up, the silence descends… the image becomes still. Has he drowned or is he just unconscious? His fate in someone else’s hands…

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What lies beneath: clip from film (click to see link)

This clip from “What Lies Beneath” has made me consider other ways of photographing drowning other than underwater. Perhaps I don’t require a pool or underwater photography. I am considering trying a bath tub photoshoot… this could be a practice for the pool photo-shoot, or if my images work well, then maybe they could be used to develop upon.

My project has led me to think about narratives that I could use to inspire my imagery. Tom Hunter was inspired by “Ophelia”.


Ophelia 1851-2 by  Sir John Everett Millais

Ophelia 1851-2 by Sir John Everett Millais (click to see link)

“The Island” … repetitive dream (Film)

During my photo-shoots for this project I will keep narratives in mind, such as “The Tempest”, “Giselle”, and the repetitive dream that takes place”The Island”. I have chosen these to inspire me, as they are from a broad range of sources; “The Tempest” a Shakespearian play, “Giselle” a ballet by Jules-Henri Vernoy de Saint-Georges and “The Island” a film directed by Michael Bay. “The Tempest” inspires me through narrative because of the shipwreck at the beginning of the play, it is a mystery throughout the play who was thought to have drowned. “Giselle” inspires me because ‘Giselle revolves around the themes of forest spirits, forces of nature, and death. The second act of the ballet, in which everyone is wearing white, is known as The White Act’. Thinking about how “Giselle will influence me I am already inspired to involve white fabric similar to The White Act. I am inspired by “The Island” because of they way it is filmed, it is very dramatic which adds to the severity that the viewer experiences.

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Giselle Ballet

Giselle Ballet (click images to see link)

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The Tempest (illustration) [click to see link]

Planning for Photo-shoots:

I will have to book the pool so that my photo-shoot can take place. Having asked permission, agreed a price and set a date , I am now ready to start planning properly.



-Drowning boys perspective (Below water looking up)

-Above water (looking down)


Drawing out my ideas helps me pre-visualise before the photo-shoots take place. I will benefit from this pre-planning whilst on shoot, as I have limited time booked in the pool.



I want to capture the patterns and rhythm of the water that the desperate drowning boys actions will create. To capture the bubbles and motion of the water I will need a bright light to create contrast. I plan to use a video light, the one I have available has 120 LED’s, this will be bright enough to use in the water.  I want to show the distortion that the water creates whilst your underwater drowning; the water makes everything unclear. Your eyes are sore and you can focus very well, perhaps the quality o the photograph could show this. I will therefore be shooting on a Olympus TG-320 Digital Camera. This is only a compact digital camera, however, it will allow me to change the ISO and the White Balance which are important whilst photographing underwater. I will control the ISO for the correct amount of light (ISO 200 approx), and I will adjust the white balance so that the blue is not overpowering ; this often a problem in underwater photography.

First Shoot:

Practice photo-shoot…

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X – Found this quite restricting as the bath is a small space

-The black fabric was to show the feeling when you are drowning of the world closing in on you. I like this concept, however I feel that this wasn’t very aesthetically pleasing in a photograph.

For this I used a mixture of the natural day light from the window and a Halogen light from the other side, this created even lighting so that the viewer could concentrate on the facial expressions and water movement, rather than half of the face being hidden in shadow. I did not want to light the subject from the front however as I didn’t want the subject to appear flat.

Light Diagram of Bath Shoot

Light Diagram of Bath Shoot


I realise that I can not take a camera underwater with me that is not protected. I can not afford a hard underwater casing for my DSLR, and do not trust that the cheaper underwater bags will work. I have messaged a 3rd year student who had done her own underwater project the year previous. (

I plan to use an Digital underwater camera, Olympus TG320. I also plan to use a video light, as they are an extremely bright constant light. I will waterproof the video light with sealing bags.

Second Shoot:

Coventry Swimming Pool…

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Light Digram of Coventry Pool Shoot

Light Digram of Coventry Pool Shoot

Prior to the Photo-shoot I had to think how to waterproof my equipment. I used sealable plastic bags for the LED Video Light, and used an underwater Digital Camera. Whilst underwater it was hard to stay down because of your natural buoyancy,  however I overcame this problem by using a diving weight belt.

Having completed this last photo-shoot I saw a link between my images and the Nirvana “Nevermind” cover.

Nirvana "Nevermind" cover

Nirvana “Nevermind” cover

I want to convey the severity, by showing the actions, feelings and experience of drowning; by putting myself in the boys situation and imagining how it must feel. Being the photographer stuck underwater capturing my work I felt a small connection to the feelings of panic and not being able to breath. I realised that the model would have to be comfortable underwater, yet a good actor; as I didn’t want to be taking photographs of someone actually drowning and in distress. For this reason I chose a model who was comfortable being underwater for long periods of time.

Thoughts on presentation:

Finding the right format…

Choosing the presentation appropriate to your idea is always a challenge, you want to engage the viewer and communicate appropriate feelings for your work. Possible ideas include printing and mounting/framing, books, photo-films, magazines, websites/blogs and galleries. I will think about how my work will and how this will work and connect with it. I will consider how much/ how little text and where. Adapting the work to the space and context.

Here are a few examples of effective presentation in the Art and Design world:

Ewa Axelrad from “Play dead” (2008)

-Light box

(click to see link)

(click to see link)

Donovan Wylie “Scrapbook”


About the conflict in Northern Ireland

Comparing unusual material

Connection to it as a viewer

Scrapbook by Donovan Wylie (click to see link)

Scrapbook by Donovan Wylie (click to see link)

Annette Messager “My vows” (1988-91)


Collection of different body part, hung on strings

My Vows by Annette Messager (click to see link)

My Vows by Annette Messager (click to see link)

Wolfgang Tilmanns

-Wall installation

by Wolfgang Tillmans (click to see link)

by Wolfgang Tillmans (click to see link)

Susan Hiller



by Susan Hiller (click to see link)

by Susan Hiller (click to see link)

Possible Presentation Ideas for Final Piece:

Grid of images…

-Similar to Bill Viola’s “The Chapel of Frustrated Actions and Futile Gestures, at the Blain Southern

The grid of video’s by Bill Viola focuses on “Frustrated Actions and Futile Gestures”, these clips create a frustrating array of work,  the frustration felt by the people in the clips is passed on to the viewer, as all the clips are shown at once. The viewer can not look at all the clips at the same time, creating a frustrating display. I want my work to pass on the feeling felt by the drowning boy to the viewer as well. My work explores the feeling of drowning. Whilst underwater you feel like the world is closing in on you; I feel that a grid of imagery will create a similar feeling, as you are overwhelmed by all the images at once.

Books used as frames…

I could use books as frames, sticking the pages down and cutting through the hard back cover I could create my own imaginative framing. This would link with the project, as I am concentrating on telling a story with my images. I want my work to narrate to the viewer in a dramatic story like manner. The books will create a story telling feel, along with the narrative imagery.

New Idea:


Having looked back at my blog post I was able to reflect on my pool shoot. I had chosen to display my images as a slideshow, viewing this back made me realise that my photographs worked well as a series. This opened up the idea of creating a photo-film. I realised that only a few images may not immerse and control the viewer, as I desired; perhaps a sequence would be more effective. I therefore had to think about order, and how the images worked together. I wanted to show a progressive sense of drowning.

Sequencing and Story Board…

Here I have looked back over the sequencing of “The Island” trailer to see how they successfully sequenced the repetitive dreams narrative. Having explored this sequence I have a better understand of how to create my sequence of images to convey drowning in a dramatic manner. “The Island” shows the struggle and screaming whilst he is being pulled down perhaps I could consider this when sequencing. What is the right order to show this? Here is a story board that I created through stills from the clip shown previsously…


La jetée”  (The Pier) by Chris Marker (1962), is the original photo image video. The film 12 monkeys is based on it ( Set in Paris, post WWIII (nuclear war), based on memory, history and time travel. At this point (1962) no one had gone into space. The film is about Cold War Europe. A form of narrative is made with still images alone.

I have also looked at “duck rabbit”…

“Duckrabbit is an award-winning digital production company.  We work with documentary audio, still photography and video to make compelling film and audio narratives for commercial, charity and broadcast clients.  We also train photographers, videographers, journalists and communications professionals in audio-visual storytelling and online strategic communications.” (

I researched into these to inspire my photo-film,  it helped me make decisions on how I wished to produce my video and the style I wanted to use.

Thinking about the presentation of my project I realise I need to answer a few questions…

What do I want the audience to know? and How am I going to do it?

I want me work to convey the feeling of drowning. As my work is based on the headline, about the teenager drowning and being rescued I want my work to be dramatic and tell the narrative of the headline. A photo-film will collectively use sound and images (stills) to create an environment where the audience feels immersed in water. I want me final piece to work in its own entity (fixed on a timeline). I believe that the information will be helpful for the audience if viewed before the photo-film begins, therefore I shall show the headline; this will show the context of the work to the viewer. Hearing the sound of water in the soundscape will immerse the audience and control  how they are experience my work. This idea is similar to the underwater room that I saw in the exhibition of Bill Viola’s work (as previously reviewed

Bill Viola:

During my presentation I plan to switch the lights off, and for the audience to experience the environment I present to them through photo-film and soundscape. This is a way of controlling of how the audiences see’s it and understands my work. A print on a wall wouldn’t give the audience the same feeling of immersion.

Sounds effects for photo-film…

If I would like my audience to feel  underwater then I have to surround them with the feelings to do with drowning. I want to create a dramatic atmosphere, where the audience experiences a sense of panic, confusion, and disorientation. To do this I will need to play the sounds to appear like it happening to them in the room. I realise that this doesn’t have to be authentic, but will just need to sound authentic. Therefore I need to look into others that have successfully made sound-scapes before.

Foley artists…

R09_0001 (Click to download) My recording of water, using an Edirol.

Adobe Premiere Pro work:

Screen shot of my Adobe Premiere Pro screen

Screen shot of my Adobe Premiere Pro screen

I wanted to layer the audio with three different audio layers, this created an effective sound-scape. The water (Audio 1) was recorded by me splashing water around as if someone was drowning, using an Edirol. Whilst recording the water I watched the images on screen and tried to emulate how the drowning would sound at that stage, for example frantic or slightly calmer. I then decided to use music from “The Smiler” ride theme tune, I took the beginning of the track and made it repeat through out, this adds a chilling and frighting feel to the audio. The last piece of audio was taken from “The Island” trailer (shown earlier in my blog post), again I decided to take a small clip of the audio where the viewer can hear the man hit the water and screaming, the repetitive screaming throughout shows the ongoing suffering and panic of drowning. I feel that the sound-scape I have created makes the audiences feel emerged in the water, they feel similar emotions to what the drowning boy may have felt.

Having completed a first draft of my photo-film, I asked my peers what they thought of it. The general feedback that I need to work on was that the soundscape was slightly repetitive and that the information given at the beginning of the photo-film was not visible for long enough. Therefore I decided to alter the soundscape, by changing the volume of repetitive areas, so that it sounded different, and changing the length of the information being display from 5 seconds to 10 seconds. I feel these changes have made my film more effective. I am please with the final outcome I have produced.

Final Piece:

Jennifer Stonely 250MC Photography in Context Assignment 2 Final Piece from Jenny Stonely on Vimeo.

click first link to see video play in Vimeo)


I feel I have produced high quality work for this project, final photo-film. This technique was completely new to me, and I feel I have grasped this idea, and made it my own. The project was a challenge, yet I am proud of the outcome. I had to solve the continuing problem of waterproofing equipment; from lights to cameras. I also had to figure how I would keep myself underwater whilst shooting, as I kept floating up to the surface. I balanced out my weight using a diving belt. If I was to come back to this project at a later date and work further on it, I would like to use a DSLR underwater with a hard casing, however as a student this was not financially possible.

I used professional practicing photographers and filmmakers to inform my understanding of underwater photography and photo-film. Tom Hunter, Brooke Shaden, Dark Beauty Magazine, CoCo, Foley Artists and Chris Marker were my key inspiration for this project. The wide range of resources has given me a vast and open platform to create my own original and personal work upon. This inspired me to use a broad range of technologies in my work, such as Video Lighting, Edirol, Nikon D60 and an Olymus TG320 underwater digital camera. Working with a range of specialist media and technologies allowed me to considered a conclusion I wouldn’t have otherwise (photo-film and soundscape).

At first I was drawn to the idea of presenting my work as a grid. However, looking back at my blog post I was able to reflect on my pool shoot. I had chosen to display my images as a slideshow, viewing this back made me realise that my photographs worked well as a series. This opened up the idea of creating a photo-film. I realised that only a few images may not immerse and control the viewer, as I desired; perhaps a sequence would be more effective.

When presented with problems I discussed with my peers possible ways to overcome them; for example when I was considering what waterproof technology I could use, I got in touch with a 3rd year student who had done her own underwater project the year previous. ( Reviewing Jenny Swerdlow’s past practice of underwater photography allowed me to develop my skills swiftly as I had an understanding of what had and hadn’t worked for her.

I enjoyed the flexibility of the brief and used this as an opportunity to explore my own photographic direction into underwater photography. I feel my presentation, as a photo-film is appropriate to the development of the project as it displays a site-specific event based on the Headline about the boy who nearly drowned in Coventry, thus successfully completing what I set out to achieve. The combination of the photo-film and sound-scape makes the audiences feel emerged in the water, they feel similar emotions to what the drowning boy may have felt.



Social Media:

You Tube Film Clip:

You Tube Film clip: