The Archive: Alice; Not All There

The Archive: Alice; Not All There

Was it a dream? Was it a hallucination? Whatever it was, Alice wasn’t really there (I’m pretty sure Wonderland isn’t a real place, all the rabbit holes I’ve explored just ended in dirt), so with that main theme in mind, I embarked on a very self indulgent set of prehistoric selfies and amazing in camera double exposures.


Somehow this concluded the work for the Alice project. I’m not sure what happened, the sketchbook just ends, but I have a box of prints and negatives including a few undeveloped rolls?!? I know a breakup happened, and as we know, at 17, that’s massive. Though looking back, I was totally the proverbial dick – so to that guy, I’m sorry. There is an evaluation in the sketch book though and the next one is for exam prep (exciting times coming up!) so that’s probably a factor.

Though the project fizzled out, it’s still one of my best bodies of work, maybe not technically, but because of the size of it and the sincere intent to make pieces that have substance. At this point I glanced the idea that photography could be art, that photography is art.

I still have to remind myself that. In this day and age where photography has become such an enormous umbrella, it’s hard to remember that Art is one of it’s segments. Especially when it’s easy to be bombarded by the photography of social media, where the images are mainly scantily clad women, for no other sake than provocative. And for a long time I hitched myself onto that, and the goal became flimsy and self seeking. It wasn’t why I started photography. I lost sight of what I wanted from the medium. That in it’s self was very dramatic.

There’s nothing wrong with shooting nudes, and there’s nothing wrong with the proactive media (as long as it’s all consensual, well managed and all parties are transparent in their motives). I like making beautiful images of women. It can be really empowering in the right context, but for me, it’s not substantial and it’s one dimensional. It’s not really what I want to do, to be known for.

I’m still working on what my “thing” is. I’m not rushing it, and that’s okay. At the moment my heath (which is rats at the moment) needs my focus and more importantly, my daughter. She’s the best.

Okay, so that’s the Alice project done. Coming up next is exam prep and final pieces. It’s more exciting that it sounds! There’s fire!!!


The Archive: Alice; Food

The Archive: Alice; Food

“Even when I have time,” he wrote to Mrs. Mayhew (December 19, 1878), “I always decline luncheons. I have no appetite for a meal at that time, and you’ll perhaps sympathise with my dislike for sitting to watch others eat and drink.”*

I really don’t think you have to know much about Lewis Carroll, aka Charles Dodgson, to know that there’s some food issues going on. Basic comprehension of the Alice books will tell you. Sweets declaring “Eat me!” and unmarked bottles imploring Alice to “Drink me!”, (which she does, because she’s all about the sensible) both causing temperamental changes in size. It’s clear that food is a prominent theme and it would have been daft not to photograph that idea, and it was a great excuse to buy many bags of sweets even though I only needed one in the end….. The sugar crash was well worth it.





Not too keen on eating himself, but always made sure other’s ate, especially his young friends:

“Could you give… the 3 girls… something to eat before we go? To be very hungry lessens ones enjoyment of a play.”*

23851332614_d02de7e56a_bPerhaps the diet of biscuits throughout the year was to make space for his birthday treat!

“And what do you think I am going to have as my birthday treat?” Charles wrote. “A whole plum-pudding! It is to be about the size for four people to eat: and I shall eat it in my room, all by myself! The Doctor said he is “afraid I shall be ill”; but I simply say ‘Nonsense!'”  *

I’m not a dietitian, or a nutritionist, but I’m pretty sure that’s not a healthy approach to food.





Please don’t make any difference, for me, in your family bill or fare. Dinner parties have too many courses for me. Even our daily High Table is much more than I care for.”*

I think it’s pretty clear that Dodgson/Carroll had some complex food issues, maybe not so much due to body issues, but control. Some believed it was stemmed from neurosis, to be honest, I don’t know enough about the man to comment why, but there is a control issue here. And even in just the context of the Alice stories, food is a negative; the unstable changes in size, A Queen willing to behead people for stealing some tarts (though Jam tarts are awesome, I would be a bit pissed too), that whole incident with the pepper and a baby turning into a pig. I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t put Wonderland in the Michelin Guide.


Whatever the reason for the food motifs, I hope you enjoyed the amazing use of selective colour and wild developing skills! Truly at the height of innovation here.

Bon Appetit!

ps. Hope you all had a good Christmas and New Year full of tasty treats!

*Quotes from Lewis Carroll: A Biography by By Morton N Cohen


The Archive: Alice; The White Rabbit & Pals

The Archive: Alice; The White Rabbit & Pals

Before I start, I need to thank my Father for making this happen. Without his patience, and importantly, his car, we wouldn’t have been able to get to the location. I think it took about six return trips to get us all there and back again. Thanks Dad.

I also need to thank Sylvia and Bernard Holmes, who allowed me to bring a bunch of hoodlums to their home and run amok in their garden. Thank you.


So, as we all know, The White Rabbit is a key character in Alice’s adventures. Without him running around like a lunatic, she probably wouldn’t have got into such a pickle. Though, is she hadn’t been such a nosy little madam, helping herself to everything and breaking into houses, that too, might have saved her some trouble. But the rabbit was a tardy bunny and Alice was entitled, so the adventure began.


Capturing Alice’s insatiable need to get The White Rabbit was a challenge for my 17yo self. In the end I decided, that if I was Alice, and eventually caught up to the Rabbit, I’d be so pissed that he never answered me, I’d smash his face in.

Originally I thought about getting a dead rabbit and having Alice hold it, in a triumphant sort of way, but it was vetoed as I couldn’t expect Kate (Alice), who was only about 10, to happily do so. I was also a bit daunted by the prospect and it just made me think of my long dead pet rabbit, Pebbles. It was too emotional.


All the actors (my mates and sister’s mates), except the iconic Alice, were loosely styled to represent their character. I decided that I didn’t want it to be too “Disney” and twee. And without a budget to go avant garde, it could have easily ended up as such. So I left it to my expert story telling photo skills to do the talking.


The Caterpillar talks…


Not all there….


Dumb Dee Dum



And finally; Alice’s complete disregard of the “rules” leads her to a life of vandalism and crime…


These images are just the ones that made it into my book. There’s countless test prints, unused images and experiments, which I still have, all piled into a box. I hate to think how many trees were cut down to facilitate this.

And this isn’t even the end of the project.

I do drop the heavy Alice stylising and go a bit more conceptual, with a nod to the books, which you’ll see.

That’s it for this year, I hope everyone has a lovely Christmas and New Year. When I return I will be bringing a selfie game so strong it makes the Jenners look weak as wafer ham. For reals.

Anyway, in the mean time you can keep up with me on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter, links to which can be found round the blog.

Jeux Noel!


The Archive: Alice; Tea Party

The Archive: Alice; Tea Party

This is still the biggest project that I set out to do, so the next few (more than few) posts will be all from “The Alice in Wonderland Project”.

At the end of our first year we were asked to think about our final year project that would span the whole year, so it had to be good. I knew that this was my time to shine and do something epic, but also something that would appeal to my mates so I could rope them in and just have a blast.

I had come across Annie Leibovitz’s Alice in Wonderland spread for Vogue, and in awe of the colours, surrealness and beauty I decided “I’ll lift that”. Don’t worry, I didn’t just copy, I had a concept; The Adult Issues found in Alice in Wonderland. A concept that was spawned from a book lent to me by my friend Lira; Lewis Carroll, Photographer by Helmut Gernsheim .

I vaguely knew that Carroll took some photographs, but not to the extent and to the subject that is explained in this book. If you don’t want to ruin the Disney version, or even the lovely twee romanticism of the books, don’t read that book and don’t read the rest of this post and subsequent posts. Just look at the pictures.


Turns out that Mr Carroll had a lot of troubles; Opium, eating disorders, the questionable fascination with little girls, particularly that of Alice Liddell, the real life Alice, and generally a disconnection to reality. All of which I’ll go into more depth as we go.


The Tea Party scene pretty much encapsulates all the issues, and is such an iconic “event” that it would have been daft, if not moronic, to not get my mates over, throw a tea party in my parent’s garden and rope in my sister’s friend’s younger sister because she was cute and blonde and had a dress! It was a beautiful day.


In that Tea Party scene, as I’ve said, there’s a lot going on. The social gathering and it’s eccentricity, apparently Carroll would swing his tea pot from side to side to get the perfect brew; The grown men, who are clearly not compos mentis, who have this, flippant attitude to Alice, but ultimately intrigued with her company, she also flips from having fun to being annoyed with them; And the various riddles and questions about reality which arise throughout the story.








This was the first time that I really saw that photography might be able to go beyond what you get in a fashion magazine, and really be something that goes over into the realm of conceptual art.

I also don’t think I’ve enjoyed making work as much as this. Everyone was wonderful and worked hard, it was fantastic. So to all my Alice players, wherever you are now, thank you.


Next time; there’s a caterpillar, a cat, a white rabbit and some excellent photoshopping.

I’m currently scouring all the reference books I used to find the quotes and information to back all this up, but teenage Jemma didn’t reference well. But when I do, I will include a bibliography. In the mean time, there’s loads of articles and you can view the biography online.

The Archive: Composition & Days Out

Warning: This is a MEGA post.


Any art student worth their salt will know how to make a new project brief fit work already made. This means that time that would be spent making new stuff can actually be used for sleep, replaying A Link to the Past and eating Reeces’ Cups. It was a magical time.

So when we were set with the project of exploring composition and understand it’s uses, I was like “heck yeah, just use them photos from them days out!”.


Much composition! I know it really doesn’t look like much, but it was literally set for a week’s work to occupy us whilst the new first years were being sorted out by the tutors.

But I took a fair amount of photos that summer, mainly in preparation for our final year project, which will come up later, but also from some days out.

It was a good summer.

I had mainly male friends, I found guys easier to hang out with, but I did have one girlfriend, who was my very best. Sadly we drifted apart and I do miss her. Anyway, most days out revolved around skating and taking photos of said skating. It was great.




I really miss that time, that age. Life was lived in the now, not worrying about anything. We we’re old enough to enjoy our independence but still young enough that we didn’t have to worry about bills, or work (other than that horny weirdo manager at Pizza Hut), the biggest concern was lack of pocket money, to buy CD’s and stickers and Lucozade.


I went to Havering Sixth Form Collage, so we either went into London town (a lot) or down to Southend (before it got mega shite) for ice cream and visits to Honky Tonks of PMT for new  guitar picks or drum sticks (I like to play).


The college hasn’t changed much, except for added buildings and security gates that make it look like a state federal. But I miss it, and I regret how the last term was spent in fall outs and loosing friends due to shitty teenage relationship politics bollocks.

Kids, when adults tell you that you’ll miss school and that it was the best time of your life; they ain’t lying. Don’t wish it away, and don’t ruin it with petty squabbles. Enjoy the bollocks off it.


The Archive: Habitation

The Archive: Habitation
hab·i·ta·tion (hăb′ĭ-tā′shən)
A dwelling place.
The act of inhabiting or the state of being inhabited.

This was actually my first year (As) exam project, the brief being to create a set of images that explored your personal interpretation of the notion of “habitation”.

I basically ripped of Tom Hunter’s “Living in Hell & Other Stories” idea, and based my photographs off of paintings. I thought this was a mega clever idea, and indeed, as the majority of the first year is basically doing others’ work, it went down a treat with my tutor.
Because that spent my whole creative thinking for the year, I stuck to my own habitat, and like any self indulgent artist with black rimmed glasses, I just took snaps around the home.
In truth, I had some what checked out mentally. A lot was going on at home, had a horrible boy friend and suffering from depression, which was exacerbated PTS (The year before my mum was diagnosed with lung cancer, the previous year, my father had to have his spleen removed, and was still being treated for Aplastic Anemia).
So I did as little as I could to pass, I’m still amazed I got a B to be honest, and I think that shows.
Portraits of Malmsteen the Cat, based on Henri Rouseau’s Suprised!
Portraits of my Siblings based on the photograph of Kurt Cobain (at 16, I found any excuse to print out more pictures of him!) and Woman with a Lute by Vermeer
Malmsteen, the Railway Cat of West Horndon ( seriously appreciate the double exposure technique!)
This post actually feels quite poignant, as this week my parents moved out of West Horndon. And whilst these aren’t really in a league that’s near to Hunter’s recreations, and when I look at them I think “jebus these are shite”, I do get a wave of nostalgia from them. A longing for that youth, a simpler time, a time when Malmsteen wasn’t as fat (as she is now), and realising that I will miss getting that really irregular C2C train home, and seeing that lonely, lost in Victorian era station.
It’s strange and interesting how that humans don’t just physically inhabit a place, but emotionally too. Perhaps this is what these do? Damn I wish I’d put that in the conclusion!

The Archive: Contrast

The Archive: Contrast

So this was my first set of portraits. Well not if you count photographing a boyfriend’s “band” as portraiture… Anyway, moving on to these actual portraits.


This was also my first real attempted at studio lighting.

Now, if you’re familiar with my work, you’ll know that I hate (by hate I mean truly detest) using studio lighting, and I’ve never really explained why. As I type this I am aware of how ridiculous a reason this is.The reason for this animosity is not due to a fear or laziness to learn it, on the contrary, as a painter I love a good bit of lighting, it’s due to the fact that whilst making these portraits, my acute clumsiness did not mix with the equipment.


Whilst setting up the lights, and being so socially awkward about photographing this boy that I’d only known for a few weeks, I managed to set off the flash right into my eye, causing temporary blindness and a terrible headache. I also managed to burn myself on the lamp by side stepping into it. It was truly a “die of embarrassment” moment.  Now, for any onlooker I understand how daft this all is and not really a reason to not use lighting. The thing is, for some time after, every time I contemplated using lighting, my mind rushed back to that moment and a wave of embarrassment and anxiety would flood all my confidence. So I honed in my ability to use natural light and made sure that all my projects could be created without the use of artificial light. I soon felt there was no need for it. And still, to an extent, feel that way. Not going to lie, there’s been time that I’ve thought “fuck me, I wish we had some lights!”



One again, take note of my cutting edge printing techniques and concepts. And also the generally sickening emo tone, damn, I was hipster back then, before it was even a thing.



I also used colour, and expanded my model base, because I was obviously a pro. My models where Andrew and Josh (I think that was his name?!?), and I think they felt just as ridiculous as I did doing these photos! But if by chance either of you are reading this; from the bottom of my heart, thank you. Without that awkward hour or so I would have never found out my love for photographing people. These first few portraits, though basic in so many ways, have shaped my images and you can see the influence they have had on my work throughout the years. I still very much like them.

The title Contrast, and all the Archive post titles, are taken from my work books and relate to the set coursework projects.