Exercise 2.1 Motif and Archive

This exercise asks the student to 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.

For this exercise I chose to use the photo sharing site Flickr as a source of images. First I selected a subject and then examined the selection presented to me by the sites algorithm. I then refined my word selections until I started to get a idea of the choices available to me. Once I had chosen a specific recurring motif, I then refined my selection of images so that I only had images where I had a clear legal permission to reuse and re-edit the images.

The area I chose was the view of the main centre of the City of Edinburgh from Calton Hill, a view which is as Schmid noted “Saturated” with people rephotographing the same view, day in day out. The view is not a modern idea either as it was once used by Turner as one of the locations for his paintings of Edinburgh.

Edinburgh from Calton Hill. Painted 1819 by Joseph Malrford William Turner. 
A view of Edinburgh Castle and the Old Town and the start of the New Town.
Edinburgh from Calton Hill Joseph William Turner 1819. National Galleries of Scotland

The images chosen are the 28 shown below. I chose 28 as I felt that with only 12 I had a limited selection and I wanted to be able to pick and chose from this archive which ones I wanted to work on and display.

With 28 images selected I was then able to again refine the selection and decide how I wanted to present them. This was quite exciting as I agree with Fontcuberta and Schmid that sometimes we need to deconstruct a view or multiple copies of a view; to stop the view becoming a cultural meme or cliché and returning it to the idea of being less of an aide de memoire and more of a work of art.

As with Exercise 1.1 I chose to rework the images in a similar style of Corinne Vionnet where the images are stacked on top of each other to produce a photo-montage of the view. All the images were aligned and sized on the common structure which is the Burns Monument which stands in the foreground.

Stacked selection of images from Calton hill taken by people and published on Flickr. The images have all been published with creative commone rights which allow artists to rework the images.

Here the images have been aligned on the Burns Monument.
Calton Hill in the style of Corinne Vionnet

While I liked the idea I was not happy with the final image so I decided to rework the idea again and this time give a clearer representation of the typology. Again I started by Aligning the images on the Burns Monument, but also wanted the rest of the skyline to be clearly seen.

Just below and to the right of the monument stands a small house which was the studio of early Scottish photographers David Octavius Hill and Robert Adamson, so I felt it was only right and honourable to include it.

Calton Hill Time Sliced in Time and Space

Once again, I had to refine my skill set and learn more about Photoshop and image manipulation, I am very pleased with the final result as it shows the view as taken by different photographers who used different cameras, different resolutions, different time of day, different post processing, but all containing the same motifs.


BBC (2017). BBC Arts – How pioneers Hill and Adamson created startlingly modern photographs. [online] BBC. Available at: https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/articles/88lkfqP8cSdr0w97kD6p3r/how-pioneers-hill-and-adamson-created-startlingly-modern-photographs#:~:text=Hill%20and%20Adamson%20were%20the [Accessed 23 Sep. 2020].

Fontcuberta, J. and Mack (Maison D’édition (2014). Pandora’s camera : photogr@phy after photography. London: Mack.

Gallery, D. (2014). Corinne Vionnet – Artists – Danziger Gallery. [online] http://www.danzigergallery.com. Available at: https://www.danzigergallery.com/artists/corinne-vionnet [Accessed 23 Sep. 2020].

of Scotland, N.G. (2016). Edinburgh from Calton Hill. [online] National Galleries of Scotland. Available at: https://www.nationalgalleries.org/art-and-artists/50144/edinburgh-calton-hill.

of Scotland, N.G. (2017). Hill & Adamson. [online] National Galleries of Scotland. Available at: https://www.nationalgalleries.org/art-and-artists/features/hill-adamson.

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