Creative Writing Workshop, Appropriation, Archives and Vernacular Lecture and the Birmingham New Library

On Thursday 31st October 2013, I attended a full day of university where, in the morning we had three different lectures, and in the afternoon we went on a course trip to the New Birmingham Library. We started with a creative writing workshop, followed by a lecture on an international task, then another lecture on Appropriation, Archives and Vernacular. In Birmingham we arrived at the new library where we then viewed an exhibition entitled “Reference Works” and were then asked to write a short critical reflection of the pieces within. All of the notes from this day can be found below: 


Mez Packer

  • Ivan TurdenevA picture shows me at a glance what it takes dozens of pages of a book to expound.” (Fathers and Sons 1862)
  • Show a relationship between images and words
  • Creative writing enrichment – not assessed
  • Will be part of a wider assessment later on
  • Aim of this morning is for us to have fun!
    • Look into what drives us
  • Is a picture worth a thousand words?


  • Skills to quickly generate ideas


  • Who are you?
  • Where do your ideas come from?
  • Your practice
  • Most arresting photojournalistic images:
    • Can empathise with
      • Greif
      • Fear
      • Joy
      • Pain
      • Etc.


  • Free writing – 4 minutes
  • Use image on the next slide as a prompt – Edward Hopper
  • Write whatever comes to your head
  • Do NOT take your pen off the paper

Edward Hopper

  • I recognise this image from a previous lecture we had last year. It was about how the Internet and other sources can show so many different copies of the same image. Some were darker, some were lighter, some were even responses created by other artists, but none of them, out of the many that we saw, were quite like this. The power of loneliness portrayed in this image is very hard hitting. I felt my heart sink as this image cam up on screen. Loneliness was the first thing I thought of, the first thing I felt. It wasn’t the technicality of the painting that grabbed my attention, but the emotion. Emotion is a powerful thing.

Five Questions:

  • Come up with five burning questions from your whole life – questions that you don’t know the answer to but that you really want to know
  • What do these questions have to do with our practice?
    • Every creative enterprise should start with a question to get the best response
  • Why did my parents get divorced?
  • What will my future hold?
  • Why is there violence and hatred?
  • How do I make myself the most confident I can be?
  • What would it be like to have everything that I want?
  • Do you love me as much as I love you?
  • Do we really know the people closest to us?

Your Values:

  • Make a list of 10 words that are important to you
  • Love, independence, confidence, creativity, passion, selflessness, future, curiosity, appearance, support
  • Question why you are seeing the things you inspire

What would you fight/die for?

  • Love – family, friends, boyfriend
  • Justice

Nathan Englander “The things we talk about when we talk about Anne Frank” – short story

  • Thinking about core values, or one of your burning questions – imagine you must leave your present life behind
  • You can only take a few things with you
  • Write a story or prose poem (200-400words) entitled Precious Things
  • Flash Fiction:
    • Type of micro-fiction
    • Usually 300 to 1000 words
    • Slice of life
    • Encapsulated narrative
    • Every word counts
    • Famous six-word story – Earnest Hemmingway? “For sale, baby shoes, never worn
  • Prose Poetry
    • Neither prose nor poetry
    • Oscar Wilde and Rimbaud
    • Ginsberg, Kerouac and Burroughs
    • Gary Young Example – “My son is learning about death…

Precious Things:

Burning bright. The orange illuminating the night sky. Standing cold, not shivering. Arms wrapped around my body, clasping the one thing that they saved. Staring. Still staring. Warmth beginning to rise as the luminescing glow ascends to the sky. Higher and higher. Arms tighten, refusing to let go. They’re safe. We’re safe. I’m safe. Grasping onto the photos, the memories, I cannot move. The usual happiness I feel when holding these memories isn’t there. It’s gone. Disturbed by the destruction. Will it come back? It has to come back.

New memories will be made, they will always be made. The happy ones will be captured by my camera. They will remain with me forever. Evidence. Truth? Never to be forgotten. Visual reminders. Storytellers. They are safe. Safe in my, albums, scrapbooks, and frames. I saved them. But the person… The person in these memories, he saved me.

Staring. Still staring.



  • Working on your Precious Things piece so far, use this as an inspiration for a series of photos
  • Bring your story/poem to the next session
  • Bring your image sets so you can either read and show your pictures or play your images as a slideshow set to your recorded prose/poetry
  • Not next week, but the week after – have two weeks


  • Online International Learning
    • Part of the group
    • In research groups
      • Explore city using visual methodologies
      • Will be given a subject – eating establishments
      • 3 week task
      • Make a piece of work that conveys subject matter
      • Will need to evidence your research and international exchanges
      • November 18th – presenting Madrid group work
      • Will need to record your presentation and send it to exchange partner
        • Will need to ask the appropriate questions in order to be able to present
        • Will need to give and receive feedback from partner in Madrid
  • How to approach it
    • The City and The CityChina Mieville 2009
    • What colour is sacred? – Culture changes the ideologies behind the same colour
    • HSBC Advert
  • Visual methodologies
    • Written word
    • Still images
    • Film
    • Audio
  • Boundaries
    • Minimum of 10 images or short video
  • Task
    • Explore subject visually looking at wider context of cultural concerns surrounding your subject
  • Things to think about
    • What is your role in the city?
    • How do you use the city?
    • What do you know about your subject already?
    • What is your relationship with the subject?
    • Look for the cultural character of the city
    • How do environmental factors effect the subject
    • How does the space change over time?
    • What is the difference between space and place?
  • Should be a fun project – experiment with methodology
  • Eating establishment
    • Fast food
      • Students – no money/nights out – fast foods
      • Photograph it in the night and day
      • 5 places, 2 photos for each
        • Munch box – outside oak
        • Blue rooster
        • ?


  • Marcel Duchamp – R. Mutt Urinal 1917
    • First found objected seen in a gallery


  • Damian HurstShark

New Tate season

  • Jeff KoonsInflatable Bunny PHOTO


  • Where we would find an archive?
    • Library’s
    • Gallery’s
    • City Council
    • Hospitals
    • Events
    • Personal
    • Ancestry
  • An archive – a collection of historical documents or records providing information about a place, institution, or group of people (
    • Archives don’t have to be old
    • Anything can be archived if you want it to be and if you want to make something important
  • Vernacular photography
  • In almost every pictureRia at shooting gallery 1936
    • Went to a carnival and decided to take part in a shooting game
    • Carried on doing it every single year for 70 years – with two exceptions
    • Context of vernacular images have changed as we are looking at them academically

o In almost every picture – Ria at shooting gallery 1936

o In almost every picture – Ria at shooting gallery 1936 3

o In almost every picture – Ria at shooting gallery 1936 2

  • Erik Kessels Albums
    • How you recreated the history of family albums when taken them out of context

Erik Kessels Albums

  • Joachim SchmidVery Miscellaneous 1996

o Joachim Schmid – Very Miscellaneous 1996

  • Mohini Chandra
    • Shows her whole family album by only showing the back of the family photographs

Mohini Chandra

  • Rachel JamesI know you Lucy Booth
  • John Stezaker


  • Christian Boltanski
    • Memorialize and symbolic representation
    • Weaves a tight line between fact and fiction
  • Shuka GlotmanUnhistorical Moments
    • Palestinian villages that no longer exist
  • Adam Broomberg and Oliver Chanarin – People in trouble (Contacts)
    • Went and found all the images that have been identified and represented them with the marks they made on the contact sheet

o Adam Broomberg and Oliver Chanarin - People in trouble (Contacts)

  • What was behind the marks? People in Trouble (Dots)

People in Trouble (Dots)

  • Walid RaadLets be honest the weather helped
    • Circles on the photograph show where the shells in the war landed on the building
    • Managed to figure out who funded the war by the collected shells that he had
    • Created a new archive with his own archive

o Walid Raad – Lets be honest the weather helped 1

o Walid Raad – Lets be honest the weather helped 2


Walking into the new library in Birmingham was like walking into that of a time machine. Everywhere you looked was a representation of different time periods, be it within the building itself or the books on the shelves, history and the future merged neatly into one. Travelling up to the third floor of this building to the “Reference Works” exhibition enabled me to experience the pure genius behind the design of this courageous building. However, stepping into the perfectly white exhibition hall acted as an escape from the overwhelming business of the building and offered a sense of serenity.

Walking around viewing the works of Michael Collins, Brian Griffin, Andre Lacon, and Stuart Whipps allowed me to understand the great diversity in responses that photographers and artists can have when given the same brief or subject in which to focus on. All four of these practitioners were asked to created pieces of work surrounding the Birmingham New Library, and the variety in their responses can act as an inspiration for the creativity held within me. (Some of their key images are shown below through the inclusion of some scanned copies of a leaflet I picked up during the exhibition, and some smartphone captures.)

Scan 1

Scan 2

2013-10-31 13.36.23

2013-10-31 13.36.12

2013-10-31 13.35.52

2013-10-31 13.39.13

In my opinion, my two favourite collections were those created by Michael Collins and Stuart Whipps. This isn’t because they were more technically efficient or creative than the other photographers/artists work, but it is simply due to the fact that they photographed similar subjects in which I enjoy photographing and experiencing. As I seem to be branching ever closer to the title of an urban/landscape photographer, I found the buildings and empty spaces within these images visually satisfying. The passive approach in which both of these photographers took, photographing “non-spaces” with no definite human presence, to me, allows the viewer to have a stronger connection to the image as it enables their own imagination to take hold.

Overall, the exhibition was a great success with work from four very talented photographs/artists. I would highly recommend not only visiting this exhibition, but also experiencing the new Birmingham library. A true triumph in both cases.