Context and Narrative

A Record of my OCA Study by Sarah Scott

Creating Mendacks NT

This pdf contains the initial exploration of ideas, reasons for the final photographs chosen, reading and research, ideas for further work and bibliography and references.

Creating Mendacks NT pdf

Creating Mendacks NT – TEXT ONLY

Original Brief

Create at least two sets of photographs telling different versions of the same story. The aim of the assignment is to help you explore the convincing nature of documentary, even though what the viewer thinks they see may not in fact be true. They to make both sets equally convincing so that it’s impossible to tell which version of the images is ‘true’.

Initial Exploration of Ideas

My original ideas for this assignment were around dating website photographs, a suggestion from the text. I joined a dating website with two separate images of myself and different descriptions to show very different aspects of who I am. I think that given the digital manipulation available now, I could really present myself as anyone I wanted to, so I found that idea quite powerful and I really liked the idea of being able to create these personas and explore them.

I chose to use JDate (6), a Jewish dating site. Orthodox Jewish women often wear wigs instead of other types of hair covering and so being Jewish myself I thought it was fair to use wigs as part of creating a persona.

Having never used a dating website before, I found that the questions that help to build a profile are narrow enough to be able to create several versions that are all reasonably honest. I looked at the work of Natasha Caruana, in particular Married Men (10). However, I didn’t feel I could continue as I was getting messages that I had no intention of replying to which felt like rejecting people and I felt my partner wouldn’t be comfortable with what I was doing.

Looking at photographs found online from the book Autoportrait by Martin Parr (7), I printed up some very large versions of images I had taken at various locations using a free online software that enlarges images called Rasterbator (8). I wanted to explore whether or not I could make a large background image convincing as a selfie background and how I could explore the idea to create two sets -one obvious and one revealing the true nature of the image. After a few trial shots it wasn’t really working and so I didn’t continue.

I visited a psychic medium as part ideas around manipulated film. I’d been looking at spirit photography and had wanted to explore the idea; I will in future because I found it fascinating and a whole culture exists around spiritualist ideas and the visuals that go along with it are promising. I posted about this on my learning log (9).

I then thought about the other side of the story in terms of my local environment. I find it strange that I feel cut off from nature, more so than I did living in London. I think that being in a city, an effort is made to ensure that people have access to nature. Living in the countryside is a bit different. I am surrounded by fields, the coast, nature, and I’m not always physically cut off from it, but I often feel like I am and so these images were meant to represent that. I didn’t feel that they fit the brief properly, although they were meaningful to me. I also liked the idea of taking some landscape images but leaving in the fences and barbed wire that for most photographers spoil the image they’re trying to create.

Final Photographs

The final images consist of a set of unedited colour digital images and a set of black and white film images with the film choice and camera settings chosen in order to manipulate the final outcome. Both sets were shot on the same day at the same location. The images were taken at a National Trust property, so it seemed sensible to create a fake booklet for that property with an alternative name.


The black and white images were shot on a ISO 400 Ilford HP5 film I had purchased in the late 1990s. I decided to try to push the film to ISO 1600, a technique I’d not tried before, but I wanted to increase the grain to make the images look more authentic. I didn’t know if the age and poor storage of the film would effect the final result but I like an unpredictable outcome. I used a Canon AE1 camera.

The film was developed in Ilfosol 3 for 11.5 minutes, rinsed in Ilfostop and then fixed in Ilford Rapid Fixer for 5 minutes. I had planned to print the images using traditional techniques. However, after I had scanned the film negatives I decided to use the scanned film versions in the final booklet, rather than print and then scan the photographs themselves.

The colour images were taken on an iPhone 8+.

Thinking About the Brief

After completing the exercises in part 1, in particular ‘Colour and the Street’(2) and ‘The Real and the Digital,’(1) and looking at the spirit images I found in Photography and Spirit (1), I began to consider not only how colour and black and white images are perceived and used, but also how digital and film images are interpreted very differently. This assignment attempts to make use of the way black and white film in particular is read as authentic and assumes an truthfulness which is based on the perceived relationship between light and process (4). Particularly when judged against digital photography which everyone accepts is easy to manipulate, it gives film a false aura of objectivity, a sort of scientific purity that often goes unquestioned. (5)
Reading & Research

My main inspiration for this booklet was the work of Joan Fontcuberta. I attended a workshop at The Martin Parr Foundation in April with Fontcuberta and I found him really inspiring. I’ve written about this on my learning log.

In Fontcuberta’s work, often the context – a book or even a museum, lends an authenticity to Fontcuberta’s work that the images themselves mock and it makes it difficult for any audience not familiar with him to fully question what they are seeing, even when he is pushing credulity to extremes. Fontcuberta’s humour comes through in his work; it’s clear that at some point he expects his audience to pick up that what they are seeing is not true.
I’ve tried to use Fontcuberta’s ideas in my booklet – humour, context and text. Obviously it’s not supposed to be fully believable, but at some level it could be true depending on how well you know the various people I’ve used.

That idea of making it half believable is why I’ve mainly added to truthful information rather than entirely making up the text. Apart from the Simon Pegg quote, all are real quotes that have been added to. Some of the text is directly from the Stourhead information page (see bibliography) and has been added to or changed very slightly.

The people I’ve chosen to include are various creatives my family admire that I could include in the narrative.

I’ve presented this in a booklet because it’s typical of the sort of short free booklet I’ve seen at National Trust properties. The design of the booklet is based on the design of the information pages printed in various languages that are given out to visitors in the pantheon in Stourhead.

Further Ideas

If I was to continue with this work then I would include more artefacts such as photographs of Jemima’s possessions like her camera, scans of the negatives, perhaps a letter to or from her father, a self portrait as Jemima in period dress with some portraits of her family. I would present it as a website with links to extended family trees and more detailed descriptions of family members.
Bibliography & References

I’ve included bibliography and references for both the final work and the initial work. Some of this is difficult to reference because I’ve revisited ideas several times and so some websites were not originally visited in the context of this assignment, but I’ve ended up realising they had an impact on my thinking and direction so I’ve listed them.
A copy of this document in pdf format can be found on
Contact sheets for the assignment and pdf version can be found on
A copy of the booklet as a pdf along with screenshots of the booklet and individual images can be found on

My learning log content for assignment 1 can be found on
The most relevant posts are
1. The Real and the Digital: . References for this post are included at the end of the webpage.
2. Colour and the Street: References for this post are included at the end of the webpage
3. Harvey, J. (2007). Photography and spirit. London: Reaktion Books.

4. Some of the ideas about the perceived relationship between light and process in film photography and the importance of materiality in photographs are in my notebook from the History of Photography lectures I attended at Arts University Bournemouth given by Jelena Stojković, and was part of discussions during the lectures. There are no direct quotes used.

One of the ideas for using film was from a viral internet post that appeared when the second series of Stranger Things was aired on Netflix – What is the purpose of the red room in stranger things? post

5. ‘The Real and the Digital’ in Wells, Liz. (2009) Photography: A Critical Introduction (4th edition). Abingdon: Routledge, pp.73–75. as given in course materials.

Quotes from the Booklet

Some of the text from the booklet is taken directly from
National Trust. (2019). A classical journey through the garden. [online] Available at: [Accessed 6 Nov. 2019].
This has been edited and added to.

Information on the grotto’s statues was from
Day, C. (2019). Stourhead, Wiltshire, UK, Grotto. [online] Available at: [Accessed 6 Nov. 2019].

Joan Fontcuberta: over time I’ve looked at a lot of his work, ideas here are mainly picked up from the workshop I attended on 9th April 2019. I have written about this in my learning log.
Scott, S. (2019). Joan Fontcuberta Workshop. [online] Context and Narrative. Available at: [Accessed 6 Nov. 2019].

From Initial Exploration of Ideas

6. (2019). [online] Available at: [Accessed 6 Nov. 2019].
7. Parr, M. (n.d.). Autoportrait.
8. The Rasterbator. (2019). The Rasterbator. [online] Available at: [Accessed 6 Nov. 2019].
9. Scott, S. (2019). Meeting with a Medium. [online] Context and Narrative. Available at: [Accessed 6 Nov. 2019].
10.Natasha Caruana. (2019). Married Man — Natasha Caruana. [online] Available at: [Accessed 6 Nov. 2019].


Langford, M. (1981). The darkroom handbook. 2nd ed. London: Dorling Kindersley.


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