Guest Lecturer: From Ken sexuality to Wait-watchers, a comparison between Sarah Davidmann and Haley Morris-Caufiero’s projects



In Sarah Davidmann’s lecture for the Final Project Module of the MA Photography at Falmouth Flexible, and in Haley Morris-Cafiero presentation taking place a few weeks ago, we had the chance to analyse two projects in which identity and the external perception generated by social norms are important elements.

While Davidmann, with her “Ken to be destroyed”, focuses her attention on the secret life of her uncle Ken as a transgender person, Molloy’s practice is more cantered in how people perceive her figure. The two approaches and the techniques employed are absolutely different, but both expose how Society moulds the way in which individuals are judged (or misjudged) because of their identity or appearance.

Discussing “Ken to be destroyed”, the author explained “The project came about because my brother, sister and I, inherited a family archive of letters, photographs and papers from our mother, Audrey. This archive tells the story of Ken and Hazel, my uncle and aunt and how, early on in their marriage, it came to light that Ken was transgender” (Davidmann, 2018).

We must take in account how transgender people were considered during the 1950s and 1960s: they were socially perceived as individuals presenting a deviate mind and treated as mental health patients in psychiatric hospitals. In history, realities like sexualities differing to what was considered “socially acceptable” were illegal and, likewise “women’s issues”, listed among mental health problems at the time, could cause an institutionalization into an asylum. This a perception that Modern Society now consider unacceptable, and yet forms of intolerance can be still traced.

The artist physically manipulated the photographs taken by uncle Ken, possibly depicting her wife, aware of his sexuality, as he wanted to openly appear, almost mirroring himself into her portraits. What Davidman did was to posthumous allow him to publicly live his sexuality confined, during his whole life, into the domestic environment.

On the other hand, Haley Morris-Cafiero in her practice externalized her condition of being “the other”, being different compared to those social norms that define standards of beauty, often affecting those individuals who cannot meet them. In her “Anonymity isn’t for everyone”, also known as “Wait-watchers”, the artist set up the camera un public spaces, starting from Time Square in New York, with a specific aim: in her words to “capture the gazes of the strangers who walk by me while I am doing every day, mundane acts. I then look at the images to see if anyone who passed by me had a critical or questioning look on their face or in their body language. I present the images to the world to start a conversation. While I do not know what the passersby is thinking, I attempt to reverse the gaze back onto the stranger.” (Morris-Cafiero, 2010).

After her photos went viral on social and mass media, she found out that many comments written by the audience, mostly anonymously, were focused in criticising her body, figure, appearance and, in some cases, she also received unsolicited e-mails explaining her that her life could have been improved if only she could make the effort to lose weight. This situation, in my opinion, perfectly explains how, nowadays, we are still affected by social standards and, while now we cannot be institutionalised because of our sexuality, we can still be isolated or derided by others, due to that lack of empathy and awareness I often discussed talking about my practice.

The photographer, anyway, decided to maintain a positive attitude and create a body of work exposing the comments she received, because while she positively responded to this situation, other individuals could react in a negative way, facing depression and, in worst cases, attempting suicide like the news released by mass-media highlight almost every day.

Both artists made a great work in transforming a reality considered “socially inacceptable” into projects aiming to give a fresh perspective on situations affecting many individuals in the world every day and I wish that my practice might receive the same positive response in the future, being prepared to face criticism, too.



Davidmann Sarah, Guest Lecture (Publication) released by Sarah Davidman for the Final Major Project Module of the MA Photography at Falmouth Flexible, 2018, available on Canvas online platform for MA Photography students at Falmouth University only. London/Falmouth.

Davidmann Sarah, Ken to be destroyed, on Sarah Davidmann’s official website

Morris-Cafiero Haley, presentation of the project “Weight-watchers”  released by Haley Morris-Cafiero for the Final Major Project Module of the MA Photography at Falmouth Flexible, 2018, available on Canvas online platform for MA Photography students at Falmouth University only. Memphis/Falmouth.

Morris-Cafiero Haley, The Watchers, 2015, The Magenta Foundation, Toronto, Canada.

Guest Lecturer: Guy Martin


What particularly impressed me by the beginning of Guy Martin’s lecture at Falmouth was the vivid impression he had, at some point of his life, that photography was using him rather than the contrary: something went wrong in the process. This detail captured my attention because I applied for this MA at Falmouth for the same reason: I was blocked. I could not create anything but those works allowing me to pay bills, like weddings or commissioned portraits that, in most cases, to me had no sense at all. That was not the reason why I wanted to be a photographer: my intention was to express and liberate myself from an intolerable burden, to portray the world, to create something that matters. That was not happening.

Interestingly, these words captured my attention more than the brief narration of the attack that killed two of his colleagues and not because that was not a horrible fact or because I am anesthetised by images of war: I will never get used to it. I guess I was listening to his words and, automatically, deeper capturing the sense of those ones I could experiment myself, using my background. I have been a victim of a car crash that left me completely paralysed in the past: I had to learn to walk, to eat by myself and to hold the reins of my life again, but I think that my situation is nothing if compared to the impact that what happened to Guy Martin can have on an individual at a psychological and emotional level.

I achieved a BA in Intercultural science with a focus on mass media, in my twenties I wanted to be a journalist in those areas afflicted by war and, due to the historical period, this is why I opted to focus on Arabic and Spanish Language: then, of course, life happens and in most cases you have to put your dreams into a drawer and to leave them there. With the same attitude, I applied at Falmouth to become a better photographer and this is why it has been strange to me to listen to those words said by an affirmed photojournalist.

I found interesting the part of his speech in which he explained his fascination to Turkish soap operas and their representation of the Country. As a matter of fact, Martin said “I love the way that they represented women; I love the way that they were just amazing locations that we went to and visited. It was like seeing a country, that even if I tried going to these places or going to these locations, I would never see these little sets, these on-location houses and places. It was amazing to work like this for a year” (Martin, 2018).

Being interested in photography for Cinema and in cinematography, due to the nature of my practice and its development in time, his perspective was absolutely precious to start understanding how a photographer must approach the work on a set. He provided interesting references that I will surely further analyse in the future, like Larry Sultan’s “The Valley” and his vision, his idea that he was creating and documenting social aspects almost representing “a grey area” of the filming process: when actors are not acting, a sort of “suspended situation” in my opinion, but still sociologically important. I had the  impression that he was representing the actual behind the fiction, basically proceeding following his instinct.

Being well-aware of the social situation in the Country, representation became a very important aspect in his work. I think a photographer often has to pay attention, while creating a documentary work, not to insert elements from his own perspective with the risk of misrepresent the reality: but in the end he was representing the fiction that, in turn, was representing the reality. The fact is that the actual represented by a soap opera, is commonly very fictionalised and dramatised, so I found astonishing his level of awareness demonstrated by his decision to adjust his perspective and to take action to better represent a place or a situation avoiding any form of cliché, an effort I must constantly make in my current practice. He compared the commissioned work to this project and I can appreciate his frustration in the first case, since it was the one I was living before deciding to achieve a higher level of education in order to improve as image-maker and image-reader, a path that took me to the project I am managing today with doubts but also with great satisfaction. He was conscious that even if the situation was potentially dangerous, it did not match with the reality documented for the western countries.

Interesting what Guy Martin said at some point “But I did the photographing; the people photographing their own potential revolution. Why was I there? What was I doing? What was I adding to it? Everyone seemed to be doing a pretty good job of it before I was there, Tweeting it, Instagramming it, getting it out there. Turks were doing a really good job of photographing and documenting this potential revolution, for themselves.” (Martin, 2018). As photographer, we often make ourselves these kind of questions and, surprisingly, also the most experienced ones of us.

Martin discusses far more than this brief section of his work I analysed in this article, providing a wide perspective of his work as photographer and kindly sharing also personal details, ideas and perceptions; but realising that, somehow, we share a situation of confusion as practitioners, did comfort me. I am always very attentive in avoiding disrespecting my sitters, the way I represent them and the subject matter or my work, so knowing that also a very skilled photographer shares my same doubts and “fears” regarding this topic, makes me think that, maybe, a continuous self-questioning it is simply the right thing to do.



Martin Guy, Guest Lecture (Publication) released by Guy Martin for the Final Major Project Module of the MA Photography at Falmouth Flexible, 2018, available on Canvas online platform for MA Photography students at Falmouth University only. London/Falmouth.

Guest Lecturer: David Moore


David Moore is a London based photographer and Course Leader of the MA Documentary and Photojournalism Course at the University of Westminster who released a lecture, during this last Module of our MA Photography, that I found unique for its perspective on publication. Previously, I had the chance to face the perspective of an artist or of a professional working in the world of Contemporary art, but he seems more keen to face the topic from an archival point of view.

As he had the chance to explain, “The idea of archive as being something which is a residual body of information which is, in some way, officiated and therefore contributes to ideas of history and knowledge formation through time. But of course, the archive is always partial, it’s always an interpretation based on decisions to include one thing or exclude others; sometimes, it can be a sort of oppositional apparatus. Photography, of course, is very similar, because as you know, as post-grad students, photography is, in its production, structured on exclusion and absence. And of course, it’s always subjective, and it’s always a record of a selected part of something. Not only is photography subjective and partial, but also its meaning is contingent; its meaning, or the readings that are made of it, are, for the most part, determined by the context within which it’s presented” (Moore, 2018).

Somehow, in his idea I found some connections to Roland Barthes’ concept of photography as an archetype for time and space, when he wrote: “The type of consciousness the photograph involves is indeed truly unprecedented, since it establishes not a consciousness of the being-there of the thing… but an awareness of its having–been–there. What we have is a new space-time category: spatial immediacy and temporal anteriority, the photograph being an illogical conjunction of the here-now and the there-then” (Barthes, 1977). According to Barthes after the shutter clicks nothing of what portrayed exists anymore, remaining excluded from that constant present frozen into an image: likewise, Moore supports the thesis that the subjective viewpoint tends to exclude what unframed while photographing, loosing elements in time and space forever.

Moreover, Moore also stated that “Photographs are also understood to stand for what was there and what happened” (Moore, 2018), another parallelism with Barthes who, as a matter of fact, used to see photography as a mix of denoted and implied message, adding to what said by Moore the idea that we add a meaning to it in accordance with our personal perception of its content. In relation with this specific context, the same thing could be said about the photographs taken for “I can hear you now” project. Also in my case there are two level of significance: the emotions expressed by my sitters and the perception the audience have of them in accordance with their personal experience and background. This is something I had the chance to analyse with my “Confrontation sheets”, supporting viewers with texts during the decoding phase since, to mention Barthers once more, a photograph itself contains “a message without a code” (Barthes, 1977) that requires an external element to be untangled: interpretation.

In his speech, Moore started by introducing his photographic project “Pictures of the Real World 1987-1988”, a project created while graduating at the West Surrey College of Art and Design with a BA in Photography and portraying different working class families on a council estate in Derby that, 25 years later, became a printed publication.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

David Moore, Pictures of the Real World 1987/1988,  selection of images from the project downloaded from David Moore official website. Slideshow. ©David Moore, 1988.

Even if their subject matter might result similar at a first analysis, his project is very different if compared to Jim Mortram’s “Small Town Inertia” and I think that the noticeable diversity is not in the use of colour, of a square format or of even film, but in the vantage point. While Mortram is portraying who he considers “his own people, his Community”, Moore’s approach is simply documentary and non-inclusive since the lifestyle of the individuals he used to portray did not reflect his own. It does not mean that his work is less valuable, but simply that it does not reflect my personal vision since I could not imagine to work on the subject matter of my project from an external perspective, this is why, while being fascinated by the historical value of Moore’s images, I am more interested in Mortram’s point of view. Moreover, while “Small Town Inertia” wants to engage a discussion related to those social problems and the politics of austerity that reduced to poverty many families in the UK, “Pictures of the Real World 1987-1988” does not point out any political question and does not discuss the reason taking his sitters to those living conditions accordingly to Dyane Smyth’s article on Photomonitor. Smyth continues “In Pictures from the Real World colour only serves to heighten the dirt, the grease stains, and the sheer visual overload of large families crammed into inadequate homes. In other images the clash between aspiration and reality is laid bare – the cheerful world depicted in Care Bears wallpaper contrasting sharply with an orange smear and a retro wrestling poster, for example” (Smyth, 2018) but, in my opinion, the real fascination derives by the distance in time of the portrayed scenery although, in the meanwhile, the socio-political situation apparently remained unaltered.

What I found absolutely interesting was Moore’s idea to re-elaborate its project after almost three decades from its original creation and not simply by re-taking the same photographs, but making a couple of his former sitter to actively collaborate in the evolution of his archive.

As he explained, in the creation of “Lisa and John” in 2017 (AN.: the names of a former couple he used to photograph during the late ‘80s), he decided to provide the two individuals, at the time already divorced and both engaged in different relationships, the same set of contact sheets asking them to select the images they loved the most avoiding to try to please the photographer in any way possible during the selection-process. They only had to choose those images accordingly to the memories they stimulated in their minds. He came back to them after six month and he noticed that only a few images have been selected by both. Since they refused to collaborate with him by releasing a series of talks, the photographer, then, decided to record them both while talking about the memories related to the selected photographs and then to make them “collide” creating a sort of dialogue between Lisa and John using those recordings. I found the idea absolutely captivating and a very creative way to re-elaborate a photographic archive.

Here, again, I remember Barthes writing in his “Camera Lucida”: “In front of the lens, I am at the same time: the one I think I am, the one I want others to think I am, the one the photographer thinks I am, and the one he makes use of to exhibit his art” (Barthes, 1980). Who is the photographer according to Barthes? Is he the sitter? Is he the artist? Is it the camera itself? And who is the “archivist” in Moore’s case? Is he the photographer or his sitters? Is it their personal history in images or the combination of their selections?

Working again on my project “I can hear you now” a re-elaboration it is something I always considered, but while previously I was simply contemplating the idea, also discussed with Professor Gary McLeod, of re-photographing my sitters, after one year or so, now I would like to find a more creative solution to re-analyse my current practice and its potential further evolutions in the future.



Barthes Roland, The Rhetoric of the Image, in “Image, Music, Text”, 1977, translated by Stephen Heath, Hill and Wang, NY, USA. Pp. 44.

Barthes Roland, The Photographic Message, in “Image, Music, Text”, 1977, translated by Stephen Heath, Hill and Wang, NY, USA. Pp. 17.

Barthes Roland, Camera Lucida: Reflections on Photography, 1980, translated by Richard Howard, Hill and Wang, NY, USA. Pp. 13.

Marconi Dayana, I can hear you now, official website

McLeod Gary PhD Prof., Rephotography, projects available on Gary McLeod and Others official website

Moore David, Guest Lecture (Publication) released by David Moore for the Final Major Project Module of the MA Photography at Falmouth Flexible, 2018, available on Canvas online platform for MA Photography students at Falmouth University only, transcript, London/Falmouth, UK. Pp. 1, 2, 9-11.

Moore David, Pictured from the real world, 1988, project available on David Moore official website

Moore David, The Lisa and John project, 2017, project available on David Moore official website

Moore David, Pictured from the real world 1987-1988, with an essay by David Chandler, 2013, Dewi Lewis Publishing and Here Press, Stockport, UK.

Mortram Jim A., Small Town Inertia, 2017, with essays written by Lewis Bush, Paul Mason and Jamie Thrasivoulou, Bluecoat Press, Liverpool, UK.

Smyth Diane, Pictures from the Real World – Colour Photographs 1987-88. By David Moore, Book review on Photomonitor, March 2018 issue [accessed: Aug 18, 2018]

Guest Lecturer: Christiane Monarchi


Christiane Monarchi, Founder and Editor of the online Magazine “Photomonitor” delivered an interesting lecture, dedicated to Falmouth Flexible students, discussing different topics related to publication and strategies to launch an artist’s work into the public domain.

Photomonitor is an online Magazine, structured as a WordPress website, “focusing on photography and lens-based media in the UK and Ireland” (Monarchi on Photomonitor, 2018). As Monarchi herself  explained during her speech, its structure aims to create a comprehensive archive of the work done by artists working or exhibiting in these two Countries, dividing its contents in different areas, like: “Gallery listing”, that provides a comprehensive agenda of shows managed by commercial Galleries or related to Universities Degrees; “Exhibition reviews”, including monthly analysis of art shows; “Interviews”, to well-established the art and photography community; “Essays”, presenting the work of art-related writers active in UK and Ireland; “Portfolio”, featuring online exhibitions of emerging and affirmed artists; “Book reviews”, an area supporting the publication of books in the field of Photography; “Auction listing”, centralising information related to UK and Paris-based photography auctions; “Collections”, sharing the contributions of private and public collectors, curators and other professionals in the field of photography and “Talks” including “a series of artist talks and discussions highlighting important trends in lens-based media both in and out of the exhibition space” (Monarchi on Photomonitor, 2018).

The Magazine, in my opinion, is a great resource to photography students and researchers, since the archive is full of useful information released in different formats and dedicated to a wide and diverse range of audience. Monarchi’s work is also particularly valuable since, nowadays, it became difficult to find interesting printed Art Magazine, mostly available by subscription only or quite pricey and, even if the fascination of a printed publication, its smell, the chance to physically browse its pages and discover interesting contents still has a great impact of me, I think her Magazine is an absolutely valuable alternative solution.

I had the chance to directly communicate with Christiane Monarchi, inviting her to my exhibition at the Brick Lane Gallery Annexe: even if she had no chance to participate, she kindly featured it into the “Listing” section of Photomonitor. During our brief exchange of e-mails, she also agreed to provide me with a feedback on my current practice: I sent her a brief artist-statement and the link to “I can hear you now” website and her positive response pushed me to “keep going” in a very difficult moment.


“I’ve spent some time looking at your site, and the various arrangements, pages, texts and video – I have to say I am impressed by your capable and comprehensive presentation on your site. Also as there are quite a few interrelated segments, from what I can see it is integral to experience the work on your site.”

Christiane Monarchi, Founder and Editor of Photomonitor Magazine, feedback on “I can hear you now” project and website, June 7th 2018.


In her speech at Falmouth Flexible, she provided us with an interesting and invaluable presentation of the “behind the scenes” of creating an online publication, also sharing a useful guidance in regard to how to effectively present our projects to publishers and curators. Among her indications and advices, she faced the tricky matter of selling art “if someone is starting out making new work as an emerging artist, that doesn’t have a price reference: this is kind of the distinction. It’s okay to start with low prices for a degree show, for example. If you attract collectors with low prices and sell out a small edition, you have the room to grow your prices quickly over time with the next edition. It’s something that is actually a tool that galleries use as well: if an artist from a show sells out, then there is every reason to think that the next show that they have will be much higher prices  because they are so valuable and so they are very attractive. That is something to consider” (Monarchi, 2018). In my specific case, I carefully considered to sell my prints while exhibiting at the Brick Lane Gallery Annexe during “Art in Mind”, but then I decided that, as stated several times during this MA, due to the subject matter of my work the best option was not to do so at this stage and re-use my prints to have the chance to exhibit in different venues while, in the future and with the written consent of my sitters, I will sell some of the printed images used for past exhibitions in order to self-fund potential further researches and developments connected to my project.

Her interesting perspective on Art Galleries and suggestion to build a long-term relationship with a major Gallery, made me realize it is something not easy to do as an emerging artist: this is also why I opted to present my work in different formats and with different shows in order to improve my “exhibition-portfolio”, to build a stronger background to my project and to have more materials to present to major galleries or art residencies’ programs in order to demonstrate its flexibility, since it can be presented in a wide range of modalities, creating always a new experience for viewers. Like Monarchi explained about the process of making contacts, initially, it has been vital to find a venue to my project making a deep online research and to directly enter into Galleries asking for information about their availability to exhibit works created by emerging artists. This is how I discovered the Brick Lane Gallery. I was staying in Shoreditch, London, during a brief vacation with my partner in January and the Gallery was right beside our apartment. After a couple of days of embarrassment, I finally entered to ask for information and since the Gallery was empty at the time because they were in the process of renovating the space after an exhibition, one of the assistants suggested me to contact the Manager via e-mail for information and, since then, I am still in contact with her, who also invited me to exhibit in their space again in the future. After that initial experience, in May I also went to “Offprint London 2018” at the Tate Modern. I fought again my shyness this allowed me to engage interesting conversations with artists like Sergej Vutuc, and some publisher interested in the work of emerging artists. As previously written, I am not interested in publishing a book related to my current practice at this stage since I sense that, even if I think my work is “resolved”, I did not find the best solution possible to do it so far, and there is still space to develop my research that could take me to different directions or to further develop my work. Of course, to publish a book would be a great honour to me but, for the moment, my intention is to present “I can hear you now” to publishers for feedbacks only.

Monarchi also suggested to apply for art residencies since it is a good way to “be seen” in the world of Contemporary art. I totally agree with her, this is why I applied for the art residency at the South London Gallery and, after the MA, I will continue to submit proposals for new residencies also using the sources she provided us with during her lecture, considering opportunities all around the world. With the same intent, I also subscribed to “Photography list”, the newsletter, run by Peggy Sue Amison that I found of Open Eye Gallery’s website, to obtain useful information about opportunities for artists.

A lecture released by an Editor has been interesting and useful to me to better understand the perspective of a professional working with artists and who receives, considers and judges their works on a daily basis: it has been definitely helpful in the process of refining the way I presented, and I am still presenting, my project to professionals with similar roles.



Amison Peggy Sue, Photography List, opportunities for artists, newsletter linked to Open Eye Gallery

Brick Lane Gallery, Art in Mind 22nd May – 4th June 2018, article included into the “Past exhibitions” area of the Gallery’s website

Marconi Dayana, I can hear you now, official website

Monarchi Christiane, Photomonitor, official website

Monarchi Christiane, Listing, Past exhibition, page featuring “Art in Mind” group show on Photomonitor

Monarchi Christiane, Guest Lecture (Publication) released by Christiane Monarchi for the Final Major Project Module of the MA Photography at Falmouth Flexible, Part One, 2018, available on Canvas online platform for MA Photography students at Falmouth University only. London/Falmouth, UK. Pp. 1-5.

Monarchi Christiane, Guest Lecture (Publication) released by Christiane Monarchi for the Final Major Project Module of the MA Photography at Falmouth Flexible, Part Two, 2018, available on Canvas online platform for MA Photography students at Falmouth University only. London/Falmouth, UK. Pp. 2, 4, 8-10.

South London Gallery

Offprint London, official website

Tate Modern, London, official website

Vutuc Sergej, official website

Guest Lecturer: Jim Mortram


After a while, during Jim Mortram’s lecture at Falmouth, I had to take a break. I had to take a break because I felt so moved by his words that I started to cry. I suddenly realised how much I could relate with the description of his mother, a woman physically, emotionally and psychologically violated: I experienced on my own skin how a woman’s mind, in these cases, wants to bury trauma-related memories simply for the urge to keep going. I felt a sort of emotional connection when the artist described her illness and his difficult position, because for many years I had to face my grandmother’s Alzheimer Disease. The woman who raised me was not even able to remember my name and she passed away into my arms, adding traumas to traumas, and the relationship we used to have made me easily empathise with the description of his bond of friendship with W.H.: she has been my very first best friend, probably the best one I have ever had in my entire life, and I am sure that if I had the chance to portray her when she was still alive and “conscious” she would have reacted like W.H., being enthusiastic and supporting me.

Screenshot_2018-07-27 Guest Lecture (Publication) - Jim Mortram Final Major Project PHO705 17 18 Part-Time Study Block S2S3

Jim Mortram, W.H. At home, our final frame, image extracted from the Guest Lecture (Publication) released by Jim Mortram for the Final Major Project Module of the MA Photography at Falmouth Flexible. Screenshot. ©Jim Mortram, 2018.

I could relate with Mortram’s sense of isolation and with his anxiety, due to the Anxiety Disorder I suffer from. Like into the description of his connection with this old man, I loved listening to my grandmother talking. I faced W.H.’s story as if I was facing a ghost, an echo from my past, a distant voice whispering into my ears. I felt a strong sense of being back home while he was describing his hometown, so similar to mine, in which I could not properly “find a place to fit in”. I never fit, this is something I have to cope with. Is it because what happened to me in my past? Is it because of the local community I was part of? Is it because I have been so damaged? I don’t know, but probably it was a combination of factors since seventeen years ago I started moving from city to city, from Country, to Country, from continent to continent and in all these years nothing really changed. I still cannot fit. All this suddenly “popped up” while listening to his words and reading his lecture’s transcription. I had to take a break.

At the beginning of his lecture, he stated “I really always feel as though what I am actually doing is paying the debt to all the people that I work with, that I photograph, that have invited me into their homes, into their lives; given me their trust, given me their time. In many respects, given me full access into their lives both the good side, the bad, the traumatic, painful. I feel it’s only part of my debt to them to explain a little bit about my community, contexts and how I view myself as a conduit for stories. I’m not a story maker. A lot of stories are handed to me, they are given to me. I’ve always viewed myself as a link in chain” (Mortram 2018). These words can be easily linked to my current practice since, during the creation of “I can hear you now” project, I portrayed not only myself, but many individuals releasing their negative emotions or trauma-related memories in front of my camera through a scream that became a sort of representative act of my entire work, a connection between those steps it is made of. I always felt honoured by the fact that they trusted me so much, that they allowed me to symbolically represent their own stories while presenting mine. As written many times, when you face isolation and pain for so long you start to believe you are the only individual on earth with issues, but when you grow up you realise that this is a shared condition: everyone suffers, at different levels and for different reasons and their pain deserve the same level of respect than mine. But my urge was not to represent traumas only, but to extrapolate something positive from my portraiture in this two-year artistic experiment and experience. I feel grateful to each one of my sitters, so grateful. They decided to open themselves to the world while I was following the same path from the first time, since just a few people before were aware of my condition. I am definitely not an open person, I am quite an introvert and this never allowed me to share details of my personal story with friends or even with my family. I never had the chance to fully discharge that pain until I started working on this project, this is why I can relate so much with Mortram’s described situation. Like him, in my 30s I found in photography a way to open myself to the world, to constructively convey that negative energy inside of me, previously only released with anger, frustration, solitude, anxiety and fear of others. I have always seen myself as a misfit and I still do, but expressing myself using the photographic image gave me the opportunity to use this awkward sensation to “make something good”. I still feel that pain every single day and I have often been stuck in “disruptive” relations, even today, but lately I found the strength to say “No”, to argue my reasons and, sometimes, to avoid feeling overwhelmed by people’s negative attitudes that before usually made me suffer. I must thank my sitters, then, because while they allowed me to support them in the process of discharging that “black fog” that was covering their hearts, they allowed me to start being myself. I must simply be beholden to them. Mortram added “I chose really quickly that I was going to fight my way out of the depression, and fight my way through whatever anxiety I was having and use every scrap of time that I had into documenting the lives of people around me” (Mortram, 2018) and this is exactly what I started doing since the very beginning of my research.

I found funny when he discussed his need to borrow a camera, because even today, during an MA Photography, I cannot afford having my own camera and I have been lucky since my mother’s husband is a great photography-passionate and so he gave me one of his digital reflex to work and, then, to complete my course. I only owned a 30-years-old Pentax K1000 and I could not afford to work on a two-year project in analogue. This situation made me agree with Mortram when he says that is not important what camera or lenses you use, because that is the least important part of the job, but it also helped me to realise that when you open yourself to the world a series of doors will be “slammed on your face”, but you will also build or strengthen connections with other individuals willing to support you in any way possible. Relationships that matter and to better explain what I mean, I must quote Mortram again, while talking about one of his sitters, “Stuart introduced me to this understanding that I’m not going to get the depth of what I am looking for in the street. It has to be within the context of an actual relationship I guess” (Mortram, 2018).

Like I started collecting words related to my sitters’ feelings before, during and after the act of screaming. Mortram started to assemble quotes to accompany his stills in order to properly narrate a story through images. This need arose from his desire to start sharing his work on social media and make these stories available to a wider audience, providing them with a stronger context: because that context is what will allow viewers to better understand what they are observing and, at the same time, it also allows the author to “protect” his sitters somehow. Thanks to those contents shared online, he has been featured by Duck Rabbit Blog with his project “Small Town Inertia” and from that moment his life changed. In my opinion, this is definitely what every photographer desires for him/herself: to be known by means of what he creates, because in most of cases that is what represents his/her “true self”. In his practice, the artist represents his own community and, at the same time, he also represents his vision, the one of a photographer who wants to visually narrate the stories of non-privileged people, “his own people”. I find this attitude inspiring because, according to my personal opinion, it represents the “gaze” of a man who understood who he is and who wants to maintain a coherent attitude even if he became a well-known professional. This is the kind of photographer I would like to have as a mentor: to improve as a storyteller, to be taught how to maintain a authentic viewpoint on what I portray, to learn how to be always loyal to myself as an artist and also to learn how to improve my skills in communicating with people, something still tricky to me.


This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Jim Mortram, Shaunny, images extracted from the Guest Lecture (Publication) released by Jim Mortram for the Final Major Project Module of the MA Photography at Falmouth Flexible. Screenshots. Slideshow. ©Jim Mortram, 2018.


When I first encountered Shaunny and took this image as just another street photograph outside the Red Lion public house in Dereham during that hot World Cup summer I’d no idea our paths might ever cross again or how in many ways that chance meeting would be one of the contributing factors to what became the series Market Town and form the template for how I’d approach and relate to all the people I now collaborate with on the project.

Jim Mortram – Small Town Inertia.


I found Shaunny’s story intriguing and moving. It is amazing and frustrating at the same time when I become so emotional in “reading” another artist’s work, but when I started listening to the story of this man I had to take the umpteenth break. I cannot face a man genuinely crying: it is something I simply find heartbreaking: I can face my pain, I am used to it but, maybe because I grew up in a very patriarchal Country in which men are pushed not to openly express emotions, when I must face a man’s tears I feel impotent. This is exactly what I experienced, once more, while observing Shaunny’s portraits. His face, his tattoos, his scars, I think they perfectly point out that this is a man with a story to tell, so it is easy to understand why Mortram had a similar sensation, deciding to find out more about this person. Commonly, people judge a book by the cover and it is possible that most of them would never approach a man with his appearance and who, to use the artist’s words, “was always cast as the villain in town” (Mortram, 2018), but I think that people should spend some time more in considering why someone behaves in a specific way, what is behind his attitude.


You better make this fucking picture because I know that this is me, this is the real me and no-one ever gets to see that.

Shaunny in Mortram – Small Town Inertia.


Since, as the photographer explained, he used a 50mm lenses, the impression we have by looking at these series of images is to become witnesses of an intimate dialogue between the portrayer and the portrayed, a conversation that can be extended to the audience, who is supported in their observation by the related-text shared by the author. We can observe the real Shaunny, the one behind the mask and the wall he built to protect himself but that, as a matter of fact, were simply slowly killing him. This is exactly what the sitter himself had the chance to observe when Mortram took him the print of one of his portraits.


That photograph changed my life, that moment changed my life. I was able to look at that photograph, see where life had taken me, see what I needed to do to not be in that position.

Shaunny in Mortram – Small Town Inertia.


I think this reaction perfectly mirrors the ethical approach and the aim of his project: to genuinely illustrate through images people’s stories trying to do something positive for them at the same time. This personal belief is reinforced by Mortram’s anecdote related to his first big fundraising campaign to purchase a device that would have dramatically improved the life-quality of one of his sitters.  At the same time, his subjects did something for him: while at the beginning of his project the photographer was psychologically and emotionally isolated today, thanks to “Small town inertia”, his family expanded, he became integral part of his own community and of the virtual one, both approaching his production with a positive attitude, and he had the chance to confront himself with other professionals expanding his horizons.

With the same approach he faced the idea of publishing his work, explaining “When I look back through the history of British Photography and I realised that every quarter century there is a group or a movement or even just one photographer documenting the same thing. It seems to be a cyclical event where our absolute poorest get punished beyond seeming reason. So I decided to make the book” (Mortram, 2018). If I have to look at the current political and social situation in Italy, which I guess it is quite similar to the one in the UK,  to look at how people with Mental Health disorders and disabilities, victims of racism and violent crimes, or even simply so “unlucky” to be born as women (or in my case all of them at once, just for the sake of making things easier) are misperceived and surrounded by a strong sense of awkward when not openly despised and attacked, I totally see his point. If there is the need to document the same occurrences over and over, if people always commit the same mistakes over and over, then there is the need to publish contents that matter over and over. If a photographic project can save or change a life, then that is a project that definitely deserves to be disseminated and I am glad Jim Mortram decided to publish it.



Marconi Dayana, I can hear you now, official website

Mortram Jim A., Small Town Inertia, 2017, with essays written by Lewis Bush, Paul Mason and Jamie Thrasivoulou, Bluecoat Press, Liverpool, UK.

Mortram Jim, Guest Lecture (Publication) released by Jim Mortram for the Final Major Project Module of the MA Photography at Falmouth Flexible, 2018, available on Canvas online platform for MA Photography students at Falmouth University only. Dereham/Falmouth, UK. Pp. 1-4; 8-10; 13; 17.

Mortram Jim, Small Town Inertia. Documentary & Portraits by J A Mortram, official blog/website Pp.4.

Guest Lecturer: David Fathi


Today I had the chance to watch the video presentation released by David Fathi for our MA Photography Final Module at Falmouth. The author, with a MA Computer Science and a scientific background, presented his artistic projects “Anecdotal”, “Wolfgang” and “The last road of the immortal woman”.

Listening to his presentation has been intriguing and inspiring, since he provided me with a fresh perspective on the world of photography. His practice is based on research and he recreated, with his practice, a great connection between science and art: a multi-angle and original approach that generated a quite interesting body of work.

Fathi organised his speech by presenting his projects in a chronological order, starting from “Anecdotal”, a book, published in 2015, even if he started working on it since 2013. This project is about nuclear tests and the author was interested in this topic since most of people are unaware that thousands of nuclear bombs has been detonated all around the world, in Nevada, Siberia and Australia for instance, since Hiroshima and Nagasaki. It is an analysis related to how Countries manage their nuclear arsenal: he represented the nuclear history from a different angle and with a new visual way, a mix of propaganda images and explosions, making them “collide” with an artistic approach.

He started his research from a quote from “Doctor Strangelove” a famous Stanley Kubrick’s political black comedy movie satirizing the Cold War fears of a nuclear conflict between the Soviet Union and the United States:


“People do not react to abstractions, they only react to direct experience”

Stanley Kubrick, “Doctor Strangelove”, 1964, USA.


According to David Fathi, Kubrick was convinced that there is nothing more abstract than atomic bombs, since people relate to them as something distant, almost fictional. People conceive as real only what they can personally experience. The result of his work is a presentation of a series of anecdotes connected to images taken from documentaries, fictional movies and propaganda scenes, all with a similar “noir” post-production. A great example of what he created is a Marilyn Monroe, Miss Atomic bomb, dressed with the classic atomic mushroom. I found this photograph, with a retro style, very effective in its simplicity and it reminded me some classic 1950s propaganda images and some 1970s experimental collage at the same time.

Screenshot-2018-4-25 Guest Lecture (Research) - David Fathi 2

David Fathi, Anecdotal, Guest Lecture (Research) – David Fathi/Wendy McMurdo, 2018, screenshots. ©David Fathi, 2018.

His approach is very different if we compare his work to Sarah Pickering’s “Explosions” not only because, in some cases, Fathi used actually occurred atomic explosions to create fictional images, while Pickering used pyrotechnic tests to recreate explosions that could be perceived as real; also their styles are absolutely different: Fathi’s is more retro and is connected to real anecdotes creating a link between images and texts, Pickering’s production is more surreal. While one author is analysing historical events through images, the other is showing pyrotechnic testing sites leaving readers to imagine stories behind her photographs. The documentary approach is definitely stronger in Fathi’s case.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

David Fathi, Anecdotal, 2015, Maria Inc, Paris, France. ©David Fathi, 2015./Sarah Pickering, Explosions, Fires and Public Order,  2010, Aperture, New York, USA. © Sarah Pickering, 2010. Selection of images from the books, slideshow.

Even more interesting his project titled “Wolfgang”, a 2016 book exploring the lines between facts and fiction.

David Fathi discovered the image-archive created by CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research located Geneva. The Organisation released this archive online and it covers their work and experiments from mid-1950s to early 1980s.  Those photos are simply fascinating and, as also the author himself stated, they almost seem extrapolated from a science-fiction movie, even if they are portraying actual experiments.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

David Fathi, Wolfgang, Guest Lecture (Research) – David Fathi/Wendy McMurdo, 2018. ©David Fathi, 2018. Screenshots, slideshow.

The author tried to find a common theme and the title was originated by the name of one of the founders of quantum physics, Wolfgang Pauli, who died right before the archive was created and who still lives thanks to it. At CERN they have an anecdote about the so called “Wolfgang Pauli effect”, who narrates that when he would enter a room, machines would break down and experiments would fail. The fact is that some researchers seemed superstitious enough to ban him from their labs and Pauli himself started believing this as we know from a discussion occurred with Carl Jung: something that the author found extremely surprising since Pauli should have had a rigorous scientific approach to life being a physicist, and yet he was religious and interested in mystic.

He started finding accidents portrayed by the archive’s images and he related them to Pauli somehow, using “The Wolfgang Pauli effect” as a line to connect all photographs and as central theme of his research. Fathi created a fascinating photographic book narrating the story of this scientist through images, connecting science and fiction through those images and using a catchy layout. He recreated some accidents in the making of the publication and in the creation of the project itself, also during live presentations, like using glitch rather than actual photographic images.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

David Fathi, Wolfgang, 2016, Skinnerbooks, Jesi, Italy. Selection of images from the book, slideshow. ©David Fathi, 2016.

Anyway, it is in the third project he presented that I found some similarities with “I can hear you now”.

With “The last road of the immortal woman” Fathi wanted to challenge himself and switch from his usual publication-oriented work to the creation of an art installation.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

David Fathi, The last road of the immortal woman, Installation view – Les Rencontres d’Arles, 2017, Arles, France. ©David Fathi, 2017. Slideshow.

The researcher, during his presentation, explained that this project is based on the story of Henrietta Lacks, known as “The immortal woman”, passed away due to an aggressive form of cancer. Her doctor took a sample of her tumour to analyse it in his lab and, since human cells decay after a certain number of divisions, he put them in a culture and this made them double becoming “immortal”. These cells helped researchers all over the world to find a cure for Polio, to test beauty products and they have also been sent to space.

Lacks’ family was struggling with racial and economical problems, and her descendants knew nothing about the situation until a researcher went and visit them to ask some questions about their ancestor. Someone was selling their genetic material and they were completely unaware of the whole situation. They eventually tried to retake possession of their own story and some criticism and questions about ethical conduct started to arise.

The author, in his representation of the journey of the immortal woman, started from The Johns Hopkins University Hospital in Baltimore to the family cemetery in Virginia at Henrietta Lacks’ grave. Lacks was mortal and immortal at the same time: while her physical body was mortal, her cells became immortal due to researchers’ work. He wanted to represent the luminal space and the relationship between mortality and immortality, artistic and scientific, personal and political, as the author pointed out.

In the approach used in the creation of his art-installation I found the first similarity with my project: both our exhibition want to be a path to be followed. In his case viewers can walk between dark landscapes and walls full of written information and data placed in front of them, in my case the audience undertake a self-analysis path while analysing the different steps of my project. The common point is that the order in which contents should be consumed is defined, since they have been created to enhance and stimulate an emotional and intellectual response. Fathi wanted the audience to go through the space and see the artistic side and the scientific one all at once, “I can hear you now” is created to force viewers to go through a “visual space” and face the outside and the inside, themselves and “the other” at the same time.

Screenshot-2018-4-25 Guest Lecture (Research) - David Fathi 7 (film stills of the video)

David Fathi, The last road of the immortal woman, Guest Lecture (Research) – David Fathi/Wendy McMurdo, 2018, screenshots. ©David Fathi, 2018.

While the video Fathi created for this art-installation represented its conclusion, in my case my brief video-documentary represents a starting point, a sort of introduction of the project and visual representation of its subject matter and author at the same time.

Screenshot-2018-4-25 Guest Lecture (Research) - David Fathi 6

David Fathi, The last road of the immortal woman, Guest Lecture (Research) – David Fathi/Wendy McMurdo, 2018, screenshots. ©David Fathi, 2018.

Going back to David Fathi’s work, I found fascinating his idea to photograph, in Paris, the cells of Henrietta Lacks through a microscope and then to apply those photographs on his dark, almost nocturnal, landscapes. He made them become almost a vision, unreal, and yet we are observing a scientific procedure at the same time. Each cell visually becomes almost a will-o’-the-wisp floating in those places related to Lacks’ mortal and immortal lives. Texts here are vital to make us understand what we are actually observing and in their creation the artist focused his attention on five keywords: SELECTION, CONTAMINATION, MUTATION, APPROPRIATION, SPACETIME. They are all equally important to understand the personal, scientific and artistic perspectives, even if he conceived the concept of “Appropriation” as more important, especially because he felt he was acting, at some point, as one of “those white men who come, take what they want and go away” (Fathi, 2018), something that Henrietta Lacks must have experienced not only after her death, but throughout her whole life. This uncomfortable feeling became stronger while he was photographing her grave. It is a feeling I can totally relate with: I felt uncomfortable while portraying myself or performing for my video-documentary, but at the beginning of my work I experienced this feeling especially while portraying other individuals and probably, if they would not have said that the process was actually useful to them, I would have stop in undertaking that path.

Facing David Fathi’s body of work gave me the same strong impression I experienced while observing Sarah Pickering’s projects: their works are so strong, so meaningful and so powerful that I felt almost daunt. I re-experienced that sense of awkward while observing my own practice, over-judging myself and thinking, once more, that I want to make my project stronger and that in the future I want to experiment more to reach a higher professional and artistic level.

Fathi, talking with Professor McMurdo about his work with archives, stated that it is important not being seduced and controlled by images but to define what we want to represent and select and use them according to our aims and goals: this is something I am already doing and I realised how difficult is to select only some images and contents among the ones we create. We can be fascinated by a vast amount of images or to experience a sense of attachment to the work we make, but we must remember that only some of our photographs and videos can be released in the public domain to make our projects become actually effective.



CERN, The Wolfgang Pauli Archive,

Fathi David, Anecdotal, 2015, Maria Inc, Paris, France.

Fathi David/McMurdo Wendy, Guest Lecture (Research) – David Fathi, 2018, video released on Canvas for academic purposes.

Fathi David, official website

Fathi David, The Last Road of the Immortal Woman, 2017, art installation at Les Rencontres d’Arles, France. Information on David Fathi’s official website, dedicated area

Fathi David, Wolfgang, with an essay by Jeffrey Ladd, 2016, Skinnerbooks, Jesi, Italy.

Kubrick Stanley, Doctor Strangelove, 1964, Prod. By Stanley Kucbrick and distributed by Columbia Picture, USA/UK.

Pickering Sarah, official website

Pickering Sarah, Explosions, Fires and Public Order,  2010, Aperture, New York, USA.

Guest Lecturer: Sarah Pickering


During this Module we are having  the chance to attend some lectures released on Canvas by Professor McMurdo who interviewed some artists who presented their projects and discussed the creative process behind them.

The first lecturer participating to this activity was the photographer Sarah Pickering who introduced a selection of her works, also explaining the research behind them. Being also an educator, the projects she presented were not only photographic ones, as a matter of fact she started with her 2016 “Pickpocket performance” which was, as the artists herself defined it, “a professional development workshop for artists” (Pickering, 2016) created in collaboration with Christophe Ambre who is, as we can read into the workshop’s manifesto, a professional Pickpocket and Consultant.

The aims of these workshops are presented into the manifesto itself:

  • Widen your skills portfolio to be market ready
  • Generate alternative streams of income for creative talent
  • Transcend the art world and make money
  • Practical tips on how to creatively remove valuable items from collectors, gallery directors and funders
  • Avoid being victim of pickpockets while thinking about artistic matters.

As Pickering explained during her presentation, most of artists make other jobs in order to fund their own artistic projects, this is why she decided to help them in understanding how to generate and manage those mentioned alternative incomes, in order to help them using her experience. Participating to such a workshop would be interesting to me, not only because it is a fascinating and ironic combination of performance art and business practice, but also because I am very interested in learning more about those topics and learning in a creative way, in my opinion, is very useful since we are not discussing about a collection of notions, but about a learning process through art. What is engaging here, as also Professor McMurdo noticed, is the thin and subtle line between legal and unlegal, between serious and facetious.

Among the projects she presented, I found three of them different and intriguing.

The first one is “Public Order”, that Pickering created between 2002 and 2005 during her MA. She photographed places at the Metropolitan Police Public Order Training Centre, a simulated urban environment nearby London. As she stated, the photographs portray very flat spaces and we can sense almost a sense of “past”. Those buildings have been created for a specific purpose, and we can observe that from some objects left behind after those trainings: no one lives there, we can feel that something occurred in those places and yet they seem frozen in time, because at the time of the shootings they were unnaturally calm. I love the non-literal approach to Public Order and in the way she portrayed the controlled environment in which officers train themselves to manage situations of public disorder: she did not photograph the training-sessions themselves, she found an alternative way to represent them, combining documentation and art. The cover of her publication related to this project, later included in her 2010 book “Explosions, Fires and Public Order”, depicts a scheme of the “Disorder model” representing how public order forces consider the different levels of disorder-situations, from the most manageable one “Tension”, passing through a second level, “Disorder”, to the last one, the most severe case, “Serious disorder (riot)”. It was based on a police manifesto and Pickering herself found it as a very simplistic way to consider the situation. I found this piece of work captivating since I have always been interested in Criminology. In 2016, before my adventure at Falmouth started, I had to decide if to apply for a MA Photography or a MA Criminology since they are my two biggest interests and since I potentially had an appropriate formative background. I must admit that I still would love to have the chance to apply for a MA Criminology and make my passions matching in the future so that I will have the chance to create more reasoned projects related to  subject matters related to this field of investigation.

The second project that captured my attention was “Explosion”, created between 2004 and 2009. This is her most well-known project and it is made up of photographs created into pyrotechnic testing sites. The visual result is quite surreal: we can observe dreamlike landscapes in which clouds seems to be alive and to land on the ground or, in one case, a home. Very interesting also those portrayed controlled explosions that almost seem natural events. The indoor-shots, created into domestic environments, are even more surreal. Those controlled fires have been generated to train forces to identify their origin and yet viewers can imagine a story  behind them, so they give space to a more active role to the audience. This is something that, in a very different way, I am trying to do with my project “I can hear you now” in which the audience is asked to understand what they observe and, possibly, empathise with my sitters. In the case of “Explosion”, in my opinion, while some stories behind the shots could be simply imagined as simple domestic accidents, some others could be read as more disturbing. These stills are the ones that made me think more about a “behind the scenes” of a film and they stimulated my imagination and attracted my attention.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Sarah Pickering, Explosions, Fires and Public Order,  2010, Aperture, New York, USA. Selection of images from the publication, slideshow. ©Sarah Pickering, 2010.

I felt a similar attraction by observing her “Celestial Objects” (2013), in which the artist recreated images of constellations using her photographs of fires and smoke created in total darkness. These work is her most abstract one, in my opinion, and yet there is a sense of continuity in her works, like an invisible line that starts from her first work and link all that follow.

Looking at my past and present practice I can observe variety and diversity, but I can’t really see many connections among my projects: this is why I am now wondering which projects I should include into a portfolio and which ones not. As artists we feel a sort of sentimental attachment to all our works even if we know that some of them are not effective enough to be included among others into a presentation. I am my worst critic, I have to admit that, but observing the intensity of the photographic materials created by artists like Pickering, who was able to generate a great balance between all her works, I realised I should better evaluate how to conceive and manage my future projects. It is a quite depressing situation, because I am almost at the end of my MA Photography at Falmouth and I still feel that sense of awkward while observing my own practice. It is like I am never satisfied and if my new way of understanding and perceiving the photographic image is not the one I used to experience two years ago. This could be seen as a progress, of course, but this condition still leaves me with a sense of desolation as soon as I must confront myself with other photographers. My hope is that in the future, using the notions I have learned during this MA, I will be able to intrigue the audience as Sarah Pickering’s works intrigued me.



Manifesta 11, Sarah Pickering – Pickpocket – A free professional development workshop for artists, released on June 2016 on Manifesta 11 official website, events section

Pickering Sarah, Explosions, Fires and Public Order,  2010, Aperture, New York, USA.

Pickering Sarah/McMurdo Wendy, Guest Lecture (Research) – Sarah Pickering, 2018, video released on Canvas for academic purposes.

Pickering Sarah, official website