Week 0 Coursework – 27.01.20

Informing Contexts Coursework Week 0 – 27th January { Human choices }

Week 0 Coursework

  • Post a short statement below that outlines where your photographic practice is now.
  • Illustrate this with examples of your work.
  • Reflect on the intent of your practice and the ‘human choices’ you have made to convey your ideas.
  • Evaluate the success / weakness of this work.
  • Outline your plans for further development.
  • Comment on the posts of your peers throughout the week as you reflect on the content of the video presentations, work on your own practice and prepare for your Webinar.


I came to the MA with the aim of creating a body of work that focuses on alternative educational provision outside of the mainstream education system.

My aims were to create a visual account, for both families new to alternative education, and for those more broadly interested in education as a whole,  showing the diversity of both the educational provision & the educational philosophies being implemented by these families, as well as creating an in-depth personal account of this subject from my own home educating family’s point of view.

In module one I photographed an ‘overview’ of the following, as a way to investigate how I wanted to use photography to illustrate the above - My own family in our daily lives, A home education learning group that my son attends in Cornwall, and a family in the South of France who left the USA 18 months ago to travel the world whilst educating their family along the way ( a method of education known as world schooling*1).

In module two I focused on photographing families local to me in Cornwall that had chosen alternative education for their children. The images showing the variation of educational styles in a small geographical area. I photographed 18 families including a variety of family set ups, educational styles, and encompassing families from a broad financial spectrum.

In this module I will be photographing my own families educational provision in depth, using both documentary and tableau, and incorporating experimental images of my children’s choosing that they feel illustrates their journey, trying to keep the project as much of a collaboration as possible.

In module four I am going to be photographing a New Democratic school that has opened in the U.K documenting the development and evolution of this new school.

In the FMP I will be combing all of my research from the previous modules, as well as photographing some world schooling families to create a cohesive body of work , the aim of which is to make into a book, and a travelling exhibition, being taken out into the communities that the photographs are of.

Examples of this work so far …


Figure 1 © Graham, Rebecca. 2019

Regarding the success and weaknesses of the works.

The first module, my work was a lot less cohesive than the second. I found my method of working, and subsequently the cohesiveness and strength of the images, a much better structure and delivery in the second module, with the images being underpinned by in-depth research into the various educational philosophies of the families involved, and statistics relating to UK elective home education. I was much more methodical in my approach to what I photographed in the second module, and after feedback in module 1, I concentrated on creating colour images instead of black and white images, to negate the nostalgic, and ‘beautifying’ effect of black and white. Whilst this is something that I feel worked well overall , and strengthened the photographic voice of the project, I found it interesting that to me, the colour images, with their depth of shadows and meaning, much more overly aesthetic than the black and white images, which appeared to be much more about the education being shown, as they removed everything else from the frame, or so I felt. I also experimented with creating portraits of the parents of the families, as a way of discussing my own role within my family without photographing myself directly, I really enjoyed this, and could quite easily see myself creating a separate body of work composed entirely of portraits of the parents at a later date outside of the MA.


Figure 2, © Graham, Rebecca. 2019

Fig 3, below from the last module I felt was successful. The family that belong to this image, the mother runs a local forest school for home educated children, as well as working for a local theatre company that create theatre productions out in the open in the woods, (her children accompanying her) where she looks after the children of the actors, doing foraging, wild cooking, and bushcraft with them amongst other activities. I felt the grain and muted tones of the image conveyed their lifestyle, (which is so connected to the earth) very well. The wooden table representing the woodland environment that is so intrinsic to their lives and educational philosophy. The fruit represents the healthiness of outside education, which is underpinned by evidence based research that shows the merits of outdoor education . At the same time the image was a narrative on what it is like being a home educating mum to two young children and a new born baby as this mother is. The half drank cup of cold coffee, that we never quite get to finish, the breakfast with only a single bite taken out of it, before you’ve had to rush off to deal with another question, or nappy change, or similar.

This image, to me, speaks of the universal complexities of motherhood that reach far beyond home or alternative education. The constant juggling trying to be the best we can be, keeping all the balls in the air at once, and whilst undoubtedly doing an amazing job, never quite managing to reach that unattainable perfection , that so many mothers strive for. The angle of the image conveys a feeling of hurry and pressure , symbolising the constant rush we find ourselves in as parents at this point in history, whilst the untidy crop of the wooden bowl and sunglasses symbolise the things we strive for that always seem just out of reach.

In the end, this image was visually about the family I photographed  but symbolically perhaps, much more about myself, and my own struggles with parenting, and alternative education, than it was about the family I was photographing that day.

EDITED TO ADD 01/02/2020 I now appreciate after reading Shore’s the nature of photographs , that this above description is taking into account and describing the mental level.While the mental level is separate from the dedicative level, it is honed by formal decisions on that level : choice of vantage point….frame….time….and focus.” (Shore,2007.pg 98)

“Conversely a photograph may have shallow dedicative space but deep mental space” ( Shore 2007. Pg 102)

“The quality and intensity of a photographer’s attention leave their imprint not he mental level of the photograph. This does not happen by magic.” (Shore. 2007. pg 110)

and finally, and most perfectly poetically precise “Some photographs are transparent. The viewer is drawn through the surface into the illusion of the image.” ( Shore . 2007. pg 46 )


Figure 3, Graham, Rebecca.  2019

Fig 4, below however, I felt I had portrayed weakly. 


 Figure 4,  Graham, Rebecca. 2019

I felt this image was weak. Being the first photoshoot I conducted of the last module I hadn’t yet found a common visual thread of lighting, colour, exposure, or lens choice to tie the images altogether. As the module moved on I stuck entirely to my 24-70mm lens to keep the image pretty uniform, I tended to shoot on 24mm quite often. The colours and exposure are off as is the horizon. These are all things I could of altered in post processing but I tend to find that editing the images alters them in a way I don’t wish too, so where possible I leave my images as untouched as possible. With the toys in the foreground admittedly creating a field of focus for the eye , drawing you into the girl, I actually in this instance just find them distracting. I think this is exaggerated by me being lower than the girl. I tend to shoot a lot with children at their eye level, and I think in this image the lower level doesn’t work well.

Human Choices

I suppose all of the above run into my human choices. I made choices to include certain aspects of education and not others, I made choices to use dramatic contrasting lighting to showcase my own spectrum of emotions regarding alternative education, and I chose to take portraits of the (mostly) mothers as a way of connecting my MA work to my wider practice in general which focuses on journeys of motherhood through pregnancy, birth and the postnatal period.

Further development

After an insanely busy module last module I made the very human decision to concentrate my project inwardly this module as I was very ill over that period, and am still recovering. My eldest two children are in the final run up for A-levels and GCSE’S over the next few months , so concentrating on this sphere/aspect of my work this module allows me to not have to sacrifice my time with them on their education, for time dedicated to my own education. It has the added benefit of allowing me to include  the photographing of A-level preparation, something that a much smaller amount of home educators continue onto after GCSE’s . It also allows for the weather to improve for when I start documenting the democratic school next module as a lot of that will be outside.

Overall, I am really happy with my chosen path for the remaining modules of the MA and how I see them panning out, I have seen growth in my choices, reasoning, and methodology as well as artistically.

This module I will continue my statistical research into elective home education in the U.K

Below is my oral presentation from the sustainable prospects module that outlines my development in the MA further …



Bibliography , images & references

Outdoor education research summary. Thursday, October 29, 2015 University of Wisconsin.  https://www.uwsp.edu/cnr-ap/leaf/school-grounds/documents/outdoor%20education%20research%20for%20school%20Grounds.pdf . (accessed 27.01.20)

Shore, Stephen. 2007. The nature of photographs. London, Phaidon.


Figure 1,  © Graham, Rebecca. 2019. Selection of images from module 1 positions and practice top row. Selection of images from module 2 sustainable prospects bottom row.

Figure 2, © Graham, Rebecca. 2019. Kirsty. Sustainable prospects.

Figure 3, © Graham, Rebecca . 2019 . Kym’s Breakfast.  Sustainable prospects.

Figure 4, © Graham, Rebecca. 2019. construction. Sustainable prospects.


Oral presentation. © Graham, Rebecca 2019. Sustainable prospects. https://youtu.be/phMpk-oR-CQ


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