Carolyn Lefley: Artist Talk

Today, we had a lecture by Carolyn Lefley. She began by talking to us about her works and self and then carried on to discuss with us way we can edit down to 10 photos in preparation for Assignment 1. Carolyn Lefley studied at Coventry University from 1997-2000 and studied a BA Honours in Fine Art. Painting was a huge part of her life and always wanted to keep this skill and work on this throughout her life. ‘Painting relates to both art and life. Neither can be made. I try to act in the gap between the two’ is a quote by Robert Rauschenberg. Him being an inspiration to Lefley throughout her painting career. As a painter, you might wonder how she became interested in photography. Well Lefley was always interested in painting reality, and using reality as a source material. This sparked off an interest for photography as photography captures reality. Her final project at Coventry University as a Fine Art student was titled ‘Empty Houses’. Lefley incorporated photography into this project, She visited home throughout the city which were awaiting new owners and photographed then. She says she faced difficulty when trying to gain access to these houses as a lot of estate agents refused entry as they had no comercial benefit from these photographs. Her final exhibition consisted of a panorama of an empty room shot on 35mm film. She also had a collection of 55 polaroids mounted in the exhibition. Once graduated, LEfley became an assistant photographer whilst still creating her own work. Below are some examples of Carolyn Lefley’s work. Viewpoint (2001) Carolyn photographed telescopes as if they were people. She said how she took into account the personification of the telescopes by working out the correct positioning and angles to make the images different to just an average photo of a telescope. The Watchers (2004)This series was one that really appealed to me. Carolyn worked around the theory of using the television as a surrogate member of the family. She took her photographs based on the viewpoint of the television. Using a long exposure of upto 10 minutes and medium format film, her images have really interesting lighting in them, and show so much detail. Each photo was titled under the name of the occupant. Throughout the series you can tell which kind of generation the occupants are by looking at the kind of furniture they have, or what the rest of the room is like.


Home (2005)This series was taken whilst Carolyn studied an MA in Photography at The University of West London. In this, Carolyn visited her childhood home where she grew up as her parents still lived there. The pictures were taken at night time to cause a contrast from the darkness inside to the lights in the street. She aimed to capture an unfamiliar side to the house to show the changes as she has grown up. This series was shortlisted for the Magenta Foundation Emerges Photography Award

Mum and Dads’s Bedroom

Carolyn Lefley said how she shot these photos with a half an hour exposure, and the light in the windows were slightly overexposed so she had to use a HDR technique to fix this Semi Detached (2006)This series was also created whilst Carolyn studied for her Masters Degree. With this, Carolyn took an interest into semi-detached houses and how they were identical to the next door just the opposite way around. She believed that the identity of someone is based on their upbringing and the memories they have in their home. Carolyn asked her neighbours if she could photograph inside her house but they refused. So instead, She had to visit her best friends house whose neighbours let her in to take the photographs. This worked out better she says. Carolyn wanted strong differences in the images, however, she was impressed with how the houses were so similar, and they different occupants even had similar furniture.

The Stairs
The Living Room

Belonging (2006) For this project, Carolyn took inspiration from Goldilocks and the Three Bears. Using an abandoned doll’s houses, Carolyn photographs the rooms to reflect searching for identity. The oversized wallpaper she says create an uncomfortable nostalgic feel. These images were printed 30″x40″ and exhibited in The House Gallery, London and were also published in Stimulus Respond Winter in 2007.

Belonging #4

Within (2007)Similar to ‘Belonging’ Lefley photographed inside a dolls house again, but in the background using the windows, wanted to capture the real house on the outside. She says this didn’t work as well as she’d hoped. Carolyn Lefley joined Troika Editions about 4 years ago, here she discusses ‘Within’ in more detail.

Within #2

Quotidian Snapshop (1st January 2007 – 31st December 2008) With this project, Carolyn took a photo everyday for two years. Studying this, I used this as inspiration for my ‘Photo a day’ work. It has inspired me to think of a more creative name and maybe carry this project on for longer instead of just a couple of months.


Realm Long Term Project (2009 – 2012)This is an ongoing project by Carolyn and at the moment only has 2 finished photos. One being a woodland scene which consists of a miniature woodland that she created herself. She always wants an image to have some kind of residence and always has to have other work to focus on whilst working on this long term project. This project includes a lot of work around interiors, similarly to her other work.

Carolyn Lefley also went through and gave some tips on how to cut down to our final 10 images for assignment 2! She spoke of some interesting things that I hadn’t even thought of.

TO EDIT– cutting down to final images

  • Prepare material for publication by correcting, condensing modifying
  • Choose material for (a media production) and arrange It to form a coherent whole
  • (edit something out) Remove unnecessary or inappropriate material from a text, film or radio or television programme
  • Change text image on a computer
  • Select Material
  • Condense/remove unnecessary material
  • Organize into a coherent whole

How you pick your final 10 images can depend on the dissemination method:

  • Exhibition
  • Photobook
  • Portfolio – book or box of prints
  • Magazines – editorial
  • Photojournalism/photo essays – print layout or digital slide show
  • Online website, blog or slideshow

How you pick your final images can also depend on what type of photography project you are working on, whether it may be a sequential set of images or a series/collection. A sequence of images can only make sense in a certain order, whereas a series or collection can be arrange in two ways. They can be arranged to either create a narrative or to compliment formal aspects of the pictures such as colour, tone or shape. Maybe both?! To begin, you should start with small prints or a contact sheet. CONTACT SHEETS:

  • Tell the truth behind a photograph
  • They unveil its’ process, and provide its back story. Was it the outcome of what a photographer had in mind from the outset?
  • Did it emerge from a diligently worked sequence, or was the right shot down to pure serendipity – a matter of being in the right place at the right time?
  • Contact sheets reveal the story behind a photograph, the process of editing it.
  • Magnum photos (2011) Contact sheets.
Contact Sheet for ‘Child with Toy Hand Grenade in Central Park’ by Diane Arbus

This is an example contact sheet by well known photographer Diane Arbus. This allows us to see the photos that Arbus felt maybe didn’t work. It also tells us that the first photo she took was infact the final image ‘Child with Toy Hand Grenade in Central Park’ which is a very well known photograph.  

Steven Pippin – ‘ Laundromat Locomotion’ – 1997 Contact Sheet

The contact sheet above is by photographer Steven Pippin. He has a very different approach to taking photos as he turns washing machines into pinhole cameras. I really love the rough effect this creates on the image. This is a good way for Pippin to then look at all of his images to decide which ones he prefers.   Depending on how many images are in your series, 2 images together can be a diptych, or 2 images, a triptych. These can be related using the similarity of focus, exposure or colour balance. People can unintentionally sequence images, for example, creating photo albums. People usually take out the bad photos, or photos of times they don’t want to remember. This is all classed as sequencing.

David Hilliard – Man at Mirror – 1997
David Hilliard – Ruminate – 2005

The pieces of work above are examples of a triptych. The same theme is kept throughout all 3 images and they are all similar in colour and have the same sized canvas.

JoAnn Verburg – Exploding Triptych – 2000

The images above are a triptych by JoAnn Verburg titled ‘Exploding Triptych’. I really like this as the first two images fit together really well, it’s almost like the first photo has been taken, and then JoAnn Verburg moved over slightly to take the next one. Rinko Kawauchi is very good at creating sequences. Instead of shooting photos which are all related, she will shoot lots of random photos, spread them all out and then pick one which can be associated with it to create a diptych. Here are some examples of Kawauchi’s work from the series ‘Cui Cui’

Rinko Kawauchi
Rinko Kawauchi
Uta Barth – Nowhere Near 1997

The diptych above is by photographer Uta Barth. I also like this style as you can see the subjects are of the same thing but one from inside and one from outside. The second image allows us to see things that we cannot see in the first image. I have always been a fan of Richard Billingham’s series on his family. ‘Rays a Laugh’ was created in 1990 and was worked on for 6 years. In this series, Billingham took snapshots of his family to use as source material for some of his paintings. Little did he know back then that these images would become so well known.

Liz shaking fist at Ray

Photographer Julian Germain published a book titled ‘ Every minute you are angry, you lose sixty seconds of happiness’. This included photographs of an elderly man. Germain captured the quiet life of this man who lived alone on the South Coast of England. I really liked these images as it was a kind of documentation of someones live, and documentary photography is something which I am really interested in. I liked how each images tells us something about the elderly man.   Editorial Sequences The following sequences are pieces of work which were used for editorial purposes. The images below are taken by photographer Clare Shilland. These photos were taken on a Swedish Island and consists of Shilland taking a series of photos of the same girl, Alice Charity Goddard. This series of work is part character and part portrait. ‘Love from Alice’

Clare Shilland for Dazed and Confused magazine
Clare Shilland for Dazed and Confused magazine
Clare Shilland for Dazed and Confused magazine

The work below is by Tim Gutt and is a Star Sign editorial collection of work which was published in Vogue UK, 2010. Each image represents a different Star Sign. The same model is used in each image. I love this series of work as each image is really surreal and you can tell there is much more work being put into it than a normal portrait. There are exciting sets which help create a fantasy atmosphere which works well with the Star Signs theme.


How can my 10 images be displayed?

  • Concertina Books
  • Photobooks

Selection and sequence:

  • The idea of sequencing images is to tell the story clearly and directly
  • Decide the theme and the argument, and then choose the pictures that follow.
  • Follow the narrative, start to end… (Michael Freeman)

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