Digital Image and Culture Part 2

The archive and the foundimage in digital culture


Exercise 2.3

Exercise 2.3

In your exercise for this section, you’ll produce a piece of work that either explores the family album and its iconography or reflects on representations of the self in digital culture.

Do ONE of the following:

  1. Produce a series of six photographs (these can be photomontage, staged photography,
    work using found images, work including images from your own family archives, etc.)
    which reference the family album in some way.


  2. Produce a series of six photo-based self-portraits that use digital montage techniques to explore different aspect of your identity.

Produce a 500-word blog post outlining your working methods and the research behind your final submission. (Whose work did you study in preparation for this exercise? Why did you choose the techniques that you did and how effective do you think your choices have been, for example?)







I produced this exercise based on the idea of using comic fantasy and the sci-fi world and developed it from the previous work I did with 3D modelling and face transfer.

I took a selfie of myself in my studio against a green screen and used that image to create the images above digitally.

Last year I worked with a consultant who helped me set up my photography company, during this process, I did an 8-hour soul searching exercise with one of the consultants that looked at me my life and my motivations. We developed a set of six personal core values, which were:

  1. Knowledge
  2. Strength
  3. Justice
  4. Love
  5. Kindness
  6. Peace and Nurture

I used these core values as the seed for my self-portraits.

I took each word and imagined a scene that connected in some way to each of the terms.

The first image is me dressed as a wizard looking at a book which is synonymous with learning and knowledge. This was the easiest image for me to conjure up.

Strength was rather direct, putting my face on a bodybuilding warrior maybe a bit obvious, but it is at least effective.

Justice was demanding I imagined scales and swords then I remembered a quote from Alec Guinness “For over a thousand generations, the Jedi Knights were the guardians of peace and justice in the Old Republic. Before the dark times, before the Empire.” So putting a lightsabre in my hands and putting on a Jedi robe seemed the right thing to do and was in keeping with the whole Sci-Fi genre.

The Love image uses my face and my wife’s face so that I am dressed as a knight kneeling before my queen. My wife ask who on earth is the girl I said you and she melted, so that worked!

Kindness was complicated but in my image, I placed a baby dragon in my hand to give the impression of a kind act and to bring in the fantasy element I also dressed the character in a roman gladiator garb.

Peace and nurture came from the idea of peace from prayer. It occurred to me that meditation creates peace and is a way of developing the mind, so it fits well with peace and nurture.

I created each of the self-portraits in DAZ 3D studio as a 3D model which I could pose and render, I rendered each one as a PNG file that allowed me to drop them into a scene in photoshop. I rendered each portrait with the shadows turned on and set a single light above each one at roughly 45 degrees this gave me a transparent shadow beneath each image that blended with the background to add some realism. I took a set of coloured base layers and applied a series of noise and cloud filters blending and blurring them to create that studio background look. I took a copy of this layer and distorted it to look like a floor plane and blended that with a gradient fill mask to make a depth feeling to the background. I dropped each image on top to give the feeling that they were all taken in a studio.

Exercise 2.2

Exercise 2.2

Write 500 words in your learning log on a piece of work by one contemporary artist-photographer who uses the archive as source material. You may focus on any artist you wish here but you may wish to select either:

  • an artist who exhibited as part of the exhibition Archive Fever (2008): Link 6
  • one of the British artists’ projects produced by UK organisation GRAIN: Link 7

Linda Sterling was born in 1954, she claims to be a product of the Punk Rock era, and states that her work was inspired because she was so bored of her art when she was in college.

Her work is rooted in Dadaism. She took images from magazines and just started to cut and paste her collages. Most of her work has a staunch feminist stance she stated in one conversation with the BBC that she had a collection of just about every fetish and perversion you could imagine.

I decided to look at a piece she did for the band the Buzzcocks for their single orgasm addict, a song designed to shock as much as it possibly could in the 70’s when you could not say the word orgasm on TV and especially before the watershed. It was the B side of the Buzzcocks first single and was immediately banned by the BBC. Interestingly it is the only single that Buzzcocks singer Pete Shelley later said “is embarrassing. It’s the only one I listen to and shudder.”

Sterling says that the image was created using an image of an iron taken from an Argos catalogue and the torso from an issue of Photo. She claims to have never gotten the rights to any of the images. She says, but it’s ok because no one noticed.

The image itself portrays a naked woman whose head is replaced by an iron and whos nipples are covered by open human mouths. The image is oddly sexual and very rough and raw in the same way that punk rock music comes across. It is the perfect image to accompany a song designed to have such a high shock value.

The image was rendered in blue because the record company insisted that the single sleeve could only be printed in two colours. Oddly this monotone blue on yellow is very synonymous with the punk rock genre where colours were designed to make you feel a little sick or in some cases to stop you being able to read the text. I still remember trying to read the inner cover of a Toyah album printed pink on light blue, an impossible task.

If we step back from the obvious punk rock vibe and the fact it was a Buzzcocks single cover the artwork itself is very similar in style to the work of Hannah Hock and her fellow Dada artists. This style of collage has the tendency to shock, which is presumably why it worked well in the punk rock world.

This type of collage and similar examples from the Dada period have a feel of Frankenstein’s monster all stitched together from parts, often making the final image rather grotesque.

Artists such as Annegret Soltau went so far as to stitch the collages together with cotton making the images look more like a scene from a Frankenstein movie.

I am not sure how an iron and a pair of snapping mouths make these images feel quite so sexual as they do but maybe its conditioning growing up as I did through the punk era of the ’70s.

Exercise 2.1

Exercise 2.1

Bring together a series of 12 images (a typology) in which a particular motif appears again and again. For this exercise, you may use found images (images you have at home as part of a family archive, for example) or images found online (from photo-sharing sites such as Flickr, for example). Select an appropriate way to display your series (as an animated slide presentation, in grid form, as single images, etc.) and present them on your learning log.

Look at the work of Corinne Vionnet. In her series Photo Opportunities, Vionnet uses Flickr archives to pull together vast series of images taken from a similar position in popular tourist sites. She then uses digital layering techniques to bring these images together into the one frame. See Link 3

Click on the image above for a larger view of the typology click on the images below for a larger view of the individual images


This work came from 2 sources. The first was the recommendation of my tutor to think about using the Scy-fi Marvel comic route as a source of further investigation.

The second was based on the idea I extracted from the paper I found in a search for more academic research into comics. The paper was published in the Journal of Graphic Novels and Comics under the title Producing comics culture.  In which Brienza talks about a sociological approach to the study of comics and refers to the fact that many people produce comics.

I was struck by the fact that there is no one artist accredited with a particular Marvel character. Over the years, they have been penned and brushed by many different people.

In the case of Iron Man, one of my favourite characters, people tend to think Stan Lee and created him, and Jack Kirby drew him.

While there is some truth to this, he was the brainchild of Stan Lee and scripter Larry Lieber it was Don Heck and Jack Kirby who designed his look, Jack Kirby was primarily, the cover artist and Don Heck was responsible for the interior images of the comic.

Over the years, the pen and the brush have been passed to many different people to take up the mantle of iron man, which has resulted in different looks and different stories. While Ironman by nature changes his suit more than his underpants, this change in style can be seen across a wide range of the characters who have less reason to make costume changes. These changes in look and feel are, however often refreshing and have maintained the interests of an avid audience for over 70 years.

The next element I considered when looking at this exercise was the work of Corinne Vionnet, In her series Photo Opportunities. In this work, Vionnet took multiple images of the same places and montaged them over each other to create a blurred image hat still gave the feel of the place.

I decided to take an original comic cover and montage multiple different portrayals of the same character. To keep in the spirit of a common motif, every one of them was at some point a member of the avengers. I also sourced versions of the original comic that had the classic spiderman logo on the face. I discovered that for an extended period there were comics with this logo which in later issues became all sorts of other characters and sometimes a bar code. Research led me to discover that in the ’50s 60’ and early ’70s Marvel would put a bar code on all comics it produced for the retailers to use. They sold comics at two prices to direct sales and retailers. The cunning retailers found a way of buying the cheaper ones and returning the unsold ones at the higher price. Marvel fixed this problem by putting a barcode on the retail versions and the spiderman head on the direct sales.

This has led later to make some comics more valuable than others, depending on how they are marked.

For my montages, I took the original cover and put some of the critical elements on a separate top layer then sandwiched the variant superheroes between them. I lowered the opacity of all of the additional layers to 70% and switched all but the top one to hard light to make the blend more pleasing and to make one figure stand out and give a sense of who the comic was about.

I was quite pleased with the results though blending 20 images 12 times took a very long time and cutting out the individual people was a lot of work hopefully it worked well for an assignment