PHO705 Week 6: Portfolio Reviews I

Much of this week has been taken up with preparing for portfolio reviews. This has also doubled as a consideration of my work in progress since early January. It has been a very useful exercise, forcing me to think more carefully about my intent and where this project might go, since it is still in early days.

A pdf of my final portfolio (at web resolution) is below. It consists of the best of my work in progress on my Final Major Project to date.


PHO705 Week 4: Output and Audience

Writing up my Final Major Project ProposaI for Entropias has made me think more carefully about how I could publish my project and connect with an audience. At the moment I am thinking of these:

A photobook, perhaps 10” x 8” or so in portrait format. The staff of Self Publish, Be Happy said at a workshop last year that a regular size in portrait format is a good and popular one, easy to sell and not too costly to produce (Self Publish, Be Happy 2020). They considered it superior to a landscape-format book. Looking at the lists of companies like Hoxton Mini-Press or Setanta, I agree.

A likely printer is ExWhyZed. I had not heard of them until the estimable Sean Tucker said that ExWhyZed are the printer he uses (Tucker 2021). Certainly their website and other work seem pretty good. I will need to research this complex field properly but I can put ExWhyZed towards the top of a provisional list.

Cost is a dominant factor here, and as former career book publisher I know than ‘vanity publishing’ is a huge trap and one to be very careful of. I do not want to go there and suspect that if the whole thing becomes a cash-fuelled ego-trip then the quality of the final book will suffer a lot. I am thinking of only a very short initial print run, although I should be able to place a few copies in local bookshops such as Blackwells in Oxford.

A Video
YouTube/Vimeo: video- and sound-scapes overlaid with still images. I am attracted to this format because it takes still images into a more fluid audio-visual and experimental field. It is also a way of avoiding the traditional static website whose day is waning, I suspect. The action now is on platforms like Instagram, YouTube, Vimeo and others. The idea is not mine but comes from an essay by Grant Scott, ‘What is the Future for the Photographic Exhibition?’ (Scott 2020). The pandemic has made people start to think far beyond simply replicating a formal gallery show as a static gallery on a website. Instead, why not turn the experience into a film?

The reach of sites like YouTube and Instagram is truly vast, so with careful marketing it is possible that a ‘show’ on these platforms will attract more visitors than a static website could manage.

A Website with an Online Gallery
This is the traditional default option. I don’t think this format is particularly interesting or original but it is likely necessary as a project anchor. Other formats can refer back to the website which can provide contact details, an artist’s statement, online sales, a fuller portfolio and so on. A website, if well made, is a way of demonstrating professionalism and bona fides. The trick is to structure it so that it looks fresh and interesting but does not require frequent updating (updates being on one’s image stream on Instagram and other platforms).

A Conventional Gallery Exhibition
This would be lovely but for now this is more likely in 2022 than in 2021. I suspect the pandemic will have to be well and truly over for a full range of venues to unlock and visitors to start appearing.

There is a fairly difficult cost factor here, at least for me. Venues in Oxford are few and normally costly, long a bugbear for all local photographers, and quality prints and frames are costly too. It is possible that a joint exhibition will be more feasible. Again, I am just not very interested in an ego-trip and I am sceptical of the cost-benefit effect of a solo exhibition.

Oxfordshire Artweeks 2021
I can show my work in progress during Oxfordshire Artweeks in May 2021, albeit the festival this year is online. For several years now I have done this jointly with the local cooperative I belong to, Oxford Photographers. In 2022 we will very probably be able to return to a proper venue and a much more ambitious exhibition.

Marketing Campaign
Easy to leave out but I think this part is very important. I need to list goals, appropriate media to approach (locally and nationally) and costs, and then form a plan of action and budget in order to publicize my project. If left until the last minute the result would be haphazard and ineffective, so an early start is important. Besides, some media have long lead times.

A part of this will be entering my images in open calls, competitions and so forth. This will build confidence, put my project around a bit and generally establish myself. If I can say I have been doing this then I will look more credible to editors and commissioners.

Local Business
There is the possibility of persuading local businesses to offer my work (for example, Manor Farm at Hampton Gay and Willowbrook Farm run online shops and both are on my patch).

Social Media
I would use social media – Instagram, Facebook, Flickr – as a feeder and marketing tool for all of the above.

Cards, Gifts and Print Sales
I enjoy being openly commercial. I think it is an important discipline. I will look at photocards and similar gift items which could have a sale in local shops and in bookshops such as Blackwells in Oxford. I will also look at product applications such as printed cushion covers, T-shirts, mugs and so forth. Print sales can be offered from a website. One contender here is an online shop on Society6.

I would not do most of this under my own name but under the branding of White Bridge Arts (I have registered the domain name). I think it is perfectly possible to keep a more formal Fine Arts practice separate from a commercial one providing one keeps the ‘brands’ distinct and resists the temptation to mix things up.


SCOTT, Grant. 2020. ‘What Is the Future for the Photographic Exhibition?’ The United Nations of Photography [online]. Available at: [accessed 14 Nov 2020].

SELF PUBLISH, BE HAPPY. 2020. ‘Education – SPBH Editions’. Self Publish, Be Happy [online]. Available at: [accessed 4 Dec 2020].

TUCKER, Sean. 2021. ‘How I Self-Publish My Photography Zines/Books (Printing, Selling, Sequencing and Design)’. YouTube video [online]. Available at: [accessed 17 Jan 2021].


PHO705 Week 3: Work in Progress

I have been progessing my new project Entropias. At the moment, much of this consists of simply walking the land and gradually taking it in. I need a feel for what I am doing, intellectually, emotionally and creatively. Thus to a degree I am making images I am not sure of and I don’t exactly know where this may lead. However, at this stage I think I need to follow my gut instinct and see what my subconscious is trying to tell me. Themes will emerge from the portfolio, I believe, if I resist the impulse to control outcomes and let things go, at least for now.

What I am trying to keep in mind when I raise the camera is the way in which photography itself introduces themes and complexities to the image. I am not making postcards or snapshots but trying for a richer and more complex story. Among the ideas the act of photography introduces are these:

  • ‘Landscape photography’ exists only as a concept, a cultural artefact.
  • Photography is an act of seeing that in itself alters our relationship to nature and our ideas of what ‘nature’ actually means (see the superb Natural Order,  Burtynsky 2020).
  • Photography alters our experience through visual and temporal manipulations (whether the that-has-been of Barthes or the rephotography of Mark Klett).
  • A man-made landscape is a place that cannot be politically neutral, an image of it thus also being a political statement (Bright 1992).
  • The photographer is part of the story and in the landscape. Ecological concerns are now too pressing to indulge the fantasy of the photographer as an objective observer who merely records and reports (see Monsanto, Asselin 2021).
  • Photography involves a complex relationship between truth and the photographer’s ‘For me, what makes photography such an exciting and troubling artform in general is the deception and tension hard-wired into it, the difficulty of defining its slippery relationship to truth’ (Gregory Halpern, in Bourgeios-Vignon 2018).

I am also reading Todd Hido on landscape photography (Hido 2014) and he adds yet more ideas to the mix. I think I need to write down the most relevant ideas and keep them in my pocket as a reference when I go out to shoot. They are all ways of encouraging me to pause and consider why I am choosing to make a particular image. Without that, there is really no intent at all.

Figs 1–8: Mark Crean 2020. Entropias. Various images of work in progress from around the land on my patch. Click on an image for a larger, lightbox view.


ASSELIN, Mathieu. 2021. ‘Monsanto: A Photographic Investigation’. Mathieu Asselin [online]. Available at: [accessed 2 Feb 2021].

BOURGEOIS-VIGNON, Anne. 2018. ‘Power and the Camera: Gregory Halpern Talks Intuition, Reflection and Representation’. Magnum Photos [online]. Available at: https://www. [accessed 26 Oct 2020].

BRIGHT, Deborah. 1992. ‘The Machine in the Garden Revisited: American Environmentalism and Photographic Aesthetics’. Art Journal (New York. 1960) 51(2), 60–71.

BURTYNSKY, Edward. 2020. Natural Order. Göttingen: Steidl.

HIDO, Todd and Greg HALPERN. 2014. Todd Hido on Landscapes, Interiors, and the Nude. New York, N.Y.: Aperture Foundation.


Figures 1–8. Mark CREAN. 2021. From: Entropias. Work in Progress. Collection of the author.

PHO705 Week 2: Research and Influences

Since my Final Major Project Entropias is a brand-new one I have much research still to do. I plan to break it down as follows:

I intend to tell my story by dividing this project into the following subject areas, mainly to allow a shooting schedule that will cover the whole area and its many activities. I will approach land and place as

  • Culture: the picturesque, the patriarchal gaze
  • Liminal, edgeland
  • Disposable, a dumping ground
  • Commodity, agribusiness
  • Workplace
  • Community and ownership
  • Heritage and Tourism
  • Sustainable resource
  • Eerie, weird and poetic places

This division would be a trap if adhered to rigidly. A different methodology will emerge naturally. For example, William Ewing (Ewing 2014) offers as themes Artefacts, Rupture, Playground, Scar, Control, Enigma, Hallucination and Reverie. There are many, more creative typologies than my initial choice.

The History of Land and Place
I will need to study landscape historians and writers such as W. G. Hoskins, Oliver Rackham, John Lewis-Stempel and Robert Macfarlane, and whatever is available from historical records online such as the The Victoria History of the County of Oxford (Page et al 1907) which itemizes my patch in minute detail for a thousand years.

The Land as Art and Culture
Cultural, aesthetic and photographic history from writers such as Simon Schama, David Campany, J. A. P. Alexander, Robert Adams, John Taylor, W. J. T. Mitchell and Liz Wells, and whatever these volumes lead me towards. Growing familiarity with the history of the painting of place will be as important as that of photography.

I can only start with those I know and work outwards. This means the practice of photographers such as Robert Adams (and his New Topographics peers), Richard Misrach, Mark Power, Paul Seawright, Nadav Kander, Michael Kenna, Paul Graham, Chrystel Lebas, Mathieu Asselin, Gregory Halpern, Matt Black, Fay Godwin, Edward Burtynksy, Thomas Struth and more.

I have been able to secure new or second-hand copies of books by some of the above and I am now reading them.


EWING, William A. 2014. Landmark: The Fields of Landscape Photography. London: Thames & Hudson.

PAGE, William, L. F. SALZMAN, H. E. SALTER, M. D. LOBEL, Alan CROSSLEY and Simon TOWNLEY. 1907. The Victoria History of the County of Oxford. London: Archibald Constable: Published for University of London Institute of Historical Research by Oxford University Press. Available at:–oxon [accessed: 16 Jan 2021].

PHO705 Week 1: Entropias

I am starting a new project for my FMP. My old project Silent City – Oxford after dark – has served me well for a year but current lockdown restrictions make it impossible to pursue. I will take it up again later when the pandemic has abated, but for now, time for a change.

Entropias is about the impact of man on the land, specifically on the small parcel of nine or ten square miles in Oxfordshire where I live (see Fig. 1 below).

My project is a blend of geography, autobiography and metaphor in the terms used by the photographer Robert Adams (Adams 1981: 14). An analogue would be landscape, longing and desire (Bate 2016: 134).

This area has a long history. The Romano-British built a villa here. All four settlements on my patch were already established agricultural communities at the time of the Domesday Book in 1086. Hampton Gay had a much larger population two hundred years ago than it does today (Page et al 1907: vol. 6, 152–159). Medieval village fields of ridge-and-furrow strips are still in evidence, as is their pasture. Sanfoin, for fodder, was grown here hundreds of years ago. The same fields today are home to an organic, grass-fed beef farm, although many hedgerows date from the enclosures of 1750–1850.

Google Maps Screenshot
Fig. 1: Google Maps 2021. Kidlington, Hampton Poyle, Hampton Gay and Thrupp, Oxfordshire. The area is about three miles across and is bisected by the River Cherwell and (on the left) the Oxford Canal

However, the centuries have come with huge differences all of which mean that the land here is under pressure as never before. The primary causes are the vast growth in human population and in the waste and detritus this produces, the introduction of chemically dependent ‘agribusiness’ farming which depletes the soil and drives out wildlife, invasive pests like ash dieback and Dutch elm diseases, and a sea change in our cultural lenses.

We no longer see land as home and part of a whole of which we are only one element. What we see is a commodity, a consumable, a scene. We are all tourists and consumers now.

The essential contrast and tension here is between the culturally conditioned conceptions about place and nature we all have and the sometimes tough day-to-day reality of lived life in a man-made environment. A good recent example in book form is Small Town Inertia (Mortram 2017), though that is portraiture whereas my focus is environment. It is the difference between what we actually experience and nature as spectacle in an Attenborough TV programme or the ‘Automotive Sublime’ beloved of the advertising industry.

I am at an early, experimental stage with this project and still feeling my way into it. But I am excited!


ADAMS, Robert. 1981. Beauty in Photography: Essays in Defense of Traditional Values. New York, NY: Aperture.

BATE, David. 2016. Photography: The Key Concepts. London: Bloomsbury.

MORTRAM, J. A. 2017. Small Town Inertia. Liverpool, UK: Bluecoat Press.

PAGE, William, L. F. SALZMAN, H. E. SALTER, M. D. LOBEL, Alan CROSSLEY and Simon TOWNLEY. 1907. The Victoria History of the County of Oxford. London: Archibald Constable: Published for University of London Institute of Historical Research by Oxford University Press. Available at:–oxon [accessed: 16 Jan 2021].


Figure 1. GOOGLE MAPS. 2021. Kidlington, Hampton Poyle, Hampton Gay and Thrupp, Oxfordshire. The area is about three miles across and is bisected by the River Cherwell and (on the left) the Oxford Canal. From: Google Maps. 2021. Avaialble at: maps/@51.836753,-1.2927486,2431m/data=!3m1!1e3 [accessed 16 Jan 2021].


PHO704: On to My Final Major Project

This is an outline of where I am now with my research project and where I intend to go over the next few months.

My research project began a year ago as a walk through my hometown of Oxford after dark, when the uncanny world of the night comes out to play. It was a largely documentary exercise, almost classic street photography. Researching it has taken me from Steichen, Brandt, Brassaï and classic noir and into the work of William Klein and Robert Frank, and then on to some equally classic work from the 1960s to the 1980s by William Eggleston, Stephen Shore and Robert Adams. More recently I have researched contemporary voices such as Thomas Struth, Rut Blees Luxemburg, Todd Hido, Gregory Halpern, Alex Soth, Gerry Johansson, Krass Clement and Ken Schles, with a very important detour into film (Tarkovsky, Lynch). I have looked at such topics as surrealism, the sublime, the uncanny, the eerie and the weird.

Over this module, however, the project has morphed into something completely different. My project is ostensibly still a walk through my hometown, but now it is really a journey into my own unconscious through the portals of where I happen to live. So what I am showing is no longer a famous place called Oxford but a Tarkovskian ‘zone’ of my own imagining. As Calvino’s postmodern novel Invisible Cities made clear, there is no fixed, objective Venice, Oxford, London or Paris out there (Calvino 1997). We each make our own, and we make them anew each time we visit them. Roland Barthes pointed out in The Death of the Author that the idea of an all-powerful creator imposing a canonical version of anything is a fantasy (Barthes 1977). We write our own book, tell our own story, out of the ingredients we find before us.

I intend to continue with this research project. I think its foundations are strong enough and I am finding my own visual language. It has stood up under research, resisted lockdowns and is in a long tradition of photography after dark. I have assembled a reasonable number of images and over winter and spring 2021 I plan to continue photographing this ‘zone’. I will also re-photograph some locations I visited in earlier modules.

My aim is to have 50-70 good, cohesive images to present as a body of work. I will offer these as a conventional photobook, but in addition I will look at other ways of presenting my body of work such as in exhibitions, on websites, through sales of prints and zines and on Instagram. In the longer term combining my work with an audio score, and therefore creating an audio-visual experience, is something I would love to do but that may well lie outside the scope of this degree.


BARTHES, Roland. 1977. ‘The Death of the Author’. In Roland BARTHES and Stephen HEATH. 1977. Image Music Text. London: Fontana, 142-148.

CALVINO, Italo. 1997. Invisible Cities. London: Vintage.

PHO704 Week 11: Marketing and Objectives

My aim is not to become full-time commercial photographer. However, I would like to become a more professional photographer who can improve his practice using the skills and marketing disciplines of the commercial photography business. I would enjoy doing that and it might also allow me to take on some part-time work (whether paid or not) from time to time.

I have covered Instagram already in this CRJ – see here and here.

I need to continue to improve my portfolio site (Crean 2020 A) and boil it down to essentials, as a mini-portfolio that is always up to date. The assumption is that most viewers will pick up my work on Instagram first and only then consider my website.

I have had some business cards printed, which is a small start, but I need to present myself as a brand with the focus, consistency and tight control of communications that entails. I need to approach things as if I were running my own business (Barnett 2020, Pritchard 2011).

I would like to become good at producing photobooks. There are several I could produce outside of this degree course. I have just taken one weekend workshop on creating and marketing photobooks with the Self Publish Be Happy group (Self Publish Be Happy 2020) and in a few days I am taking a second one with them that will concentrate more on the internal graphic design and layout of the photobook. The first weekend was very informative (and enjoyable) and has improved my confidence a lot.

It is clear that I need to assemble a proper printed portfolio. For this I need to assemble a bank of printed images that can be sequenced and changed depending on whom one is showing the portfolio to. Ensuring that a portfolio is relevant to the intended purpose is important.

To help with this, I need to apply for some portfolio reviews. The Association of Photographers (I am now a member) and the Photographers’ Gallery in London both offer this service, among others, and over the next few months I will book some slots.

Personal Projects
I have a personal project, Entropias (Crean 2020 B). The purpose of the project is to help me stay fresh and creative, but it is also something I could present as a zine, small book or other venture, either commercially or for charity.

Web Shop
I will be using White Bridge Arts as the brand name of a webshop on an art sales website called I have already mentioned this in my CRJ here.  It should be fun.

I usually participate in a joint local photography exhibition each year with ArtWeeks. If there is a proper ArtWeeks in 2021 (unknown at present because of the pandemic) then I will take part.

There are also magazines to approach, other new personal projects to consider, local newspapers, competitions, social media take-overs and so forth. However, I would prefer not to give the impression that I can take a degree and do all that at the same time, because my priorities in life are not those. Becoming a 24/7 photography bore is likely to kill not enhance my creativity.


BARNETT, Maximus. 2020. ‘Week 11: A Conversation with Maximus Barnett’. Falmouth Flexible Photography [online]. Available at: [accessed 4 Dec 2020].

CREAN, Mark. 2020 A. ‘Portfolio’. Mark Crean [online]. Available at: [accessed 8 Aug 2020].

CREAN, Mark. 2020 B. ‘Entropias’. Mark Crean [online]. Available at: [accessed 8 Aug 2020].

PRITCHARD, Lisa. 2011. ‘Marketing and Promotion’. In Lisa PRITCHARD (ed.). Setting up a Successful Photography Business. London: A. & C. Black, 72–86.

SELF PUBLISH BE HAPPY. 2020. ‘Education’. Self Publish, Be Happy [online]. Available at: [accessed 29 Sep 2020].

PHO704: Documentary Modes

Introduction to Documentary by Bill Nichols (Nichols 2017) is about the history and narrative techniques of documentary filmmaking and the most important issues now facing the field.

My interest lies in what Nichols has to say about story and narrative in documentaries. Story and narrative are two different things and are not interchangeable. Put simply, a narrative is how a story is told or demonstrated. The story is all the events, characters and other elements that make up a narrative. (If there is a plot, then the plot will suggest some kind of relationship between the story’s various elements.)

Nichols’ approach is highly schematic. In particular, he identifies seven different documentary modes (Nichols 2017: 22-3):

  • Poetic mode
  • Expository mode
  • Observational mode
  • Participatory mode
  • Reflexive mode
  • Performative mode
  • Interactive mode

Much of the book is concerned with elucidating the differences between these modes. Each mode tends to have typical uses, for example, together with particular goals and ethical issues (Nichols 2017: 156-7). Each mode treats time and space differently, is distinct epistemologically, usually employs a different ‘voice’ and treatment of sound and has a rough equivalent in other media (Nichols 2017: 108-9). The modes may also make use of well-established models such as the investigative report, the travel piece, the poetic, the autobiographical, the history or the testimonial (Nichols 2017: 106-7).

Nichols pays particular attention to ‘voice’ in documentary filmmaking, by which he does not mean the literal spoken word. He explains:

‘The voice of documentary is each film’s specific way of expressing its way of seeing the world. The same topic and perspective on it can be expressed in different ways. … Voice, then, is a question of how the reasoning, analysis, feelings, and values in a documentary become conveyed to us. … Documentary voice is clearly akin to film style’ (Nichols 2017: 50).

This is important, because as Nichols points out, ‘Each voice is unique. This uniqueness stems from the concrete utilization of conventions and models, from techniques and modes, and from the specific pattern of encounter that takes place between filmmaker and subject’ (Nichols 2017: 53).

This sophisticated analysis matters because it is so close to how story and narrative may arise from a portfolio of still images. The techniques are similar – framing, composition, editing, jump cuts, mixed modes of expression and so forth. If a portfolio of images is accompanied by a soundtrack then its treatment would also be similar to the use of sound in various modes of documentary, as would captions. Captions are in fact an important element of ‘voice’ and require careful treatment. They may enhance an image, but equally they may subvert it, change the mode of expression, or spoil a poetic moment.

Where does my research project stand in relation to this? I think it is firmly in Nichols’ poetic mode. Qualities Nichols associates with the poetic mode include ‘Formal abstractions … see the familiar in a fresh way … Expressive … Discontinuous … images that build mood or pattern without full regard for their original proximity … may distort or exaggerate for aesthetic effect … Expressive desire to give new forms and fresh perspectives’ (Nichols 2017: 108).

These qualities do identify my work over this module. However, things are rarely clear cut. Just as documentary filmmakers mix modes in their work, so my research project occasionally strays into other territory. Some images, particularly of deprivation, are observational in their intent. Images of graffiti or signage with an apparent message could be considered expository. And, overall, a strongly personal work could be considered performative because such a work ‘seeks to move its audience into subjective alignment or affinity with its specific perspective on the world’ (Nichols 2017: 152). Whether or not I decide to change this, at least I am now more aware of what I am doing.

I am glad to have found such a detailed analysis. It leaves me with a better idea of where my research project fits in as well as with goals and techniques to concentrate on in the poetic mode. Nothing beats a clear intent. In addition, the work has given me a better understanding of the role of text and captions. These are not afterthought. I am building a ‘voice’ from many components and any one of them can change it.


NICHOLS, Bill. 2017. Introduction to Documentary. 3rd edn. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.