Personal Archives – a creative photography project

Word and Image
December 16, 2015

Guest blog post by Susan Andrews and Ania Dabrowska

What is an archive?

How might you create a body of work in response to an archive?

What’s the difference between an archive and a personal collection?

In what way does developing your own body of work constitute the development of an archive?

These were a few of the many questions students on the creative photography workshop explored over the course of two Saturdays in November.  Taking inspiration initially from the Museum’s collection and subsequently from an object of personal significance, the participants were asked to make a series of work that engaged with common photographic considerations, such as light, framing and scale, and also reflected their personal perspectives. They then explored the purpose of editing, sequence and narrative, and the role of these in the construction of meaning.  In the second session participants worked with text to understand its function in the development of an archive and also  in order to gain focus regarding their personal bodies of work.  The practical workshop was an opportunity for students to develop conceptual, aesthetic and technical strategies, and to understand the objectives and meaning of their own work in relation to the construction of a personal archive.

The different projects created by the workshop participants were really impressive and a selection of their images and text can be seen below:

Feeling Blue – a project by Sue Daly


© Sue Daly


© Sue Daly

The object I chose for the project (a 1960’s Swedish blue bud vase) is sophisticated in its colour, shape and photogenicity. In the series of photos I took, I was able to present images which gave the object a sense of playfulness, humour and flexibility.

I selected two abstract images of the vase for the blog because they have a strong emotional narrative for the viewer and are open to a wide interpretation.

About the photographer: I have no preconceived ideas of how to portray a subject. Colours, texture, framing and focal point of the images are tools I use as part of the process. I explore methods of capturing images in unexpected ways not necessarily those commonly anticipated by the viewer.

Spice – a project by Keith Heatherley


© Keith Heatherley


© Keith Heatherley

How did the images produced on the workshop connect with photographs I normally take? To me photography offers the opportunity to make an interesting or arresting image from anything I’m presented with, either because of the straight-forward meaning the subject depicted has, or choosing to emphasise one or more elements for their own distinctive qualities of a wide range available – structure, form, light, tone, pattern, placement, intent …

What has the project given me? A stimulus, a discipline, a deadline, to produce work I would not have got around to, left to myself! And the value of experienced guidance and peer review to shake me up and help me move on.

Reading beyond object in unexpected delicacy in desiring stability. A project by Catherine Derisa Cardi


© Catherine Derisa Cardi


© Catherine Derisa Cardi

Smileys – a project by Bridget McCall


© Bridget McCall


© Bridget McCall

Love of “smileys” was something that Joe, my Dad, and I had in common. This one at the top I bought to cheer him up when he was admitted to hospital two months before he died.

The simple happiness that people see masks a hard, mad, sad rollercoaster of a time. Yet, here he is, popping up – wanting to be part of the picture – as he always apt to do in life.

Reflections on the course: Connecting the dots – thinking about pictures and words. “Talking” about what I see, feel and make. I did love the course.

Personal Archives took place at the V&A on 21st and 28th November 2015 and was led by Susan Andrews and Ania Dabrowska.

Keep an eye out for upcoming V&A practical photography courses, all of which are listed on the V&A What’s On calendar








1 comment so far, view or add yours


Love the Cardi one with old book and teacup and leaves.

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